Instead of bullying staff by threatening to scrap their pay rise, health secretary Jeremy Hunt should introduce the ‘living wage’ across the NHS, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Monday 7 October).
Following the weekend furore when it was revealed that the Department of Heath told the pay review body (PRB) it wanted to ditch the one per cent increase from April 2014 and the pay progression increments linked to satisfactory performance which had already been promised by the Treasury, Unite is launching a campaign to highlight the continuing pay erosion in real terms for the 1.3 million NHS staff since 2006.
Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, is calling for the introduction of the ‘living wage’ across the NHS – it is already in place in Scotland. The union said its introduction would add only £5 million to the wages bill and would benefit about 17,000 low paid NHS employees.
Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: “Jeremy Hunt’s move to scrap the one per cent pay rise that already had been given the green light from treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander smacks of bullying and kicking a demoralised workforce in the teeth - again.
“For him to claim that the Department of Health does not have the money to spend on staff is ridiculous, given he has just wasted £3 billion on a bureaucratic reorganisation that no-one wants and increasing sums each day on the administration of a healthcare market without a penny going to improve patient care.
“He also claims that pay cuts will improve patient care. Only NHS staff can improve patient care when they are treated fairly and don’t have to function in an environment of constant job cuts.
“The reality is that senior managers have seen a 13 per cent increase in their incomes since 2009, while the rest of the staff have seen their pay eroded by nearly the same amount.
“A one per cent rise will only mean £10 a month to some of the worst paid in the NHS, at a time of increasing household bills.
“Unite is not only calling for Hunt to withdraw his pay freeze proposal, but to come up with a substantial pay uplift, so that staff don't have to rely on food banks and in work benefits, but can catch up with inflation.”
Unite has already said, in its own submission, that the PRB should recommend a bottom loaded flat rate increase for the million NHS workers, covered by the Agenda for Change national agreement, for 2014-15. The PRB is due to report in February/March next year.
The ‘living wage’ is £7.45 outside London and £8.55 in the capital. The total NHS budget is £108 billion a year.
For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940
Unite is Britain and Ireland's largest trade union with 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.