Multi-millionaire health secretary and the cabinet’s richest member Jeremy Hunt has erected a ‘Berlin Wall of intransigence’ in refusing to talk to NHS staff on pay, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Thursday 20 November).
Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, lambasted the hapless health secretary, as NHS staff in England and Northern Ireland gear up for a second four-hour strike on Monday (24 November), which also heralds the start of eight weeks of working to rule.
Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: “As ministers ponder their departmental legacies as May’s general election looms, Jeremy Hunt’s ministerial epithet will be: ‘I did not talk to hardworking NHS staff on pay’.
“We understand that MPs from all parties have been urging Hunt to start talks, but, so far, he is cowering behind a Berlin Wall of intransigence.
“The 1.35 million NHS workforce has been forced, reluctantly, to take strike action on Monday as they have seen their incomes eroded by 15 per cent since the coalition came to power in May 2010 – and we expect a strong turn-out buoyed up by very welcome continuing public support, following the four hour action last month.”
Unite contrasted the attitude of Hunt and his Whitehall mandarins with that of the Labour-controlled cash-strapped Welsh government which announced today a pay settlement for Welsh NHS workers.
The Welsh government health and social services minister Mark Drakeford announced that NHS workers will receive a non-consolidated cash payment of £187 for this year, with one per cent pledged for the next financial year 2015/16. The ‘living wage’ will also be introduced in the New Year.
Rachael Maskell said: “The contrast in the attitude between the financially challenged Welsh government and the hard line adopted by Hunt could not be greater. It is time for Hunt to get around the negotiating table in good faith.”
In a letter to Jeremy Hunt today, Unite urged the health secretary to meet the unions to settle the dispute: “The tight financial situation is more severe in Wales than England, however, an outcome has been achieved.”
In England, the strike will run from 07.00 to 11.00 and in Northern Ireland on 08.00 till 12.00.
The crux of the dispute stems from the government’s decision to veto the one per cent pay rise, as recommended by the independent Pay Review Body (PRB), earlier this year.
In Scotland, the devolved government has agreed to pay the one per cent pay rise to all staff as recommended by the PRB and to implement the ‘living wage’ by paying an extra £300 to low paid workers. Unite accepted this and, therefore, did not ballot its members in Scotland.
For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940 and/or the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065.
Notes to editors:
Jeremy Hunt’s decision to reject the recommendation of one per cent for all workers by the PRB meant that only those at the top of their band pay received the one per cent increase in April. An estimated 50 per cent of the NHS workforce had to rely on their annual incremental increase, which is not necessarily guaranteed.
Unite stresses that the incremental increases are in recognition of increased knowledge and skills as staff progress in their careers, with additional performance criteria to be met – and are not part of the annual pay rise process
Notes to editors
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.