Opinion

Working together to improve NHS pay

Living costs are spiralling and wages are in the doldrums, but NHS pay is now a hot topic in politics and the media. It is essential to keep up the pressure on government to win a fair deal, says Unite’s head of health Sarah Carpenter.

Public sector pay has been a huge issue in politics and the media this summer, and shows no sign of changing as we head into the autumn. 

Alongside the other NHS unions, including the Royal College of Nursing, Unison and the GMB, Unite-CPHVA is calling for an end to the public sector pay cap. This is the government policy that dictates that pay rises in the NHS, for example, can be no higher than 1%, and this ‘remit’ is passed on to the pay review bodies to work within. This has meant that while inflation and the cost of living have risen year on year by more than 1%, your pay is capped, and so your income drops significantly in real terms.

Recent news has shown that the government is prepared to change that approach for some public sector groups, and we are continuing to keep the pressure up to ensure that this change comes to the NHS too.

Living costs

Call for clarity

By the autumn, NHS unions are usually beginning to gather evidence for the independent NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB). And usually we do this in the knowledge that Jeremy Hunt, the secretary of state for health, has already written to the NHSPRB to let them know their remit. But so far Hunt has written no letter, and so there is confusion about the process.

In September, not wanting to sit and wait to be told what to do, 14 NHS trade unions united to launch their campaign for a meaningful NHS pay increase from April 2018 with a letter written directly to the chancellor, Philip Hammond. The pay claim is for an increase to keep up with the cost of living and to start to make up for the years of lost pay – that means an increase in line with inflation, plus an £800 lump sum for all staff, and for this to be fully funded. We also want to speak about pay beyond 2018, through engaging with the government about how we make the NHS pay system better, fairer and more sustainable.

We are under no illusions that this will be easy to achieve, but we need all our members to start talking about pay, and how important it is that public services staff are valued and paid what they are worth.

When we asked Unite members before the summer, 63% said they would be prepared to take action short of a strike as part of a campaign against the pay cut, and we know that members have got angrier about the government’s position as the months have passed. There will be chance at the CPHVA conference to have your say, and local meetings will also be taking place.

What is important is that all unions are standing up and speaking out with one voice on pay. Together we will make a difference.

Picture credit | Alamy

 

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