Ministers have offered more than 1 million NHS staff in England a 3% pay rise, three times higher than its initial 1% offer which sparked outrage among frontline workers.
However, nurses are likely to reject the award as too low and may take industrial action in protest. Other health unions are also planning a membership vote on a possible strike.
After a day of confusion and mounting tension, the government abandoned plans to make just 1.5% of the 3% increase a permanent salary increase, with 1.5% in effect a one-time bonus. This came after employee groups privately warned that they would condemn any deal organized in this way.
However, the government’s decision to exclude 61,000 junior NHS doctors – all doctors below the level of a consultant – from the pay award is sure to cause deep concern among a key group of staff who carried out a series of strikes in 2015-2016 to protest a proposed new contract.
The pay rise offer comes after the Covid pandemic has overwhelmed hospitals, forced staff to adjust to full personal protective equipment and canceled leave. Waiting lists have increased to 5 million patients.
Ministers confirmed on Wednesday that they had fully accepted the recommendations of the two independent wage review bodies that advise the government on NHS pay levels. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said 3% was “a recognition of the unique impact of the pandemic on the NHS”.
She added that the 3% is for the 2021-22 fiscal year that started on April 1, so she’ll go back to then. It will cover most NHS staff including nurses, paramedics, consultants, dentists and salaried GPs but not doctors and dentists still in training.
“NHS staff are rightly receiving a pay rise this year despite the broader public sector pay cuts being held, in recognition of their extraordinary efforts,” said Sajid Javid, the health minister.
The Department of Homeland Security revealed the show shortly before 6 p.m., hours after the announcement was pulled at the last minute from a cabinet statement by Health Secretary Helen Whatley to lawmakers. Did not explain why.
Health unions have criticized the 3% offer as “grossly inappropriate” and “frivolous” given the work of frontline workers tackling the pandemic and the real decline in income over the past decade, during which they have received only 1% annual increases or had their salaries frozen .
Organizations representing the NHS trust were more positive. Chris Hobson, chief executive of NHS Providers, welcomed the decision to abandon the 1% offer made earlier this year, which Boris Johnson insisted ministers were giving NHS staff “as much as we can”.
But Hobson added, “It is disappointing to hear that the 3% increase was not applied to all grades of employees, including junior physicians, as trust leaders emphasized the need for a fair deal to be applied to all workforces. This is a useful improvement to the government’s initial 1% proposal, which understandably led to widespread condemnation.”
Pat Cullen, Acting Secretary-General of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said: “When the Treasury projected inflation to be 3.7%, ministers intentionally cut the salaries of the experienced nurse by more than £200 in real terms.” For nurses to get a 12.5% increase.
Colin warned that nurses in England could go on strike for the first time due to the 3% offer. RCN members in Scotland have already rejected an offer of 4% from the Scottish government. “The profession wouldn’t take that lying down,” she said. “We will consult with our members about what action they would like to take next.”
RCN has set aside £35m to cover the costs of a potential strike, and is training 25,000 members as workplace activists to help it ensure that at least half of members vote on any ballot, to comply with trade union laws introduced by the Conservatives.
Unite described the wage offer as “extremely inadequate and disappointing, given the sacrifices health workers have made over the past 18 months in the fight against the coronavirus.” GMB national officer Rachel Harrison said: “NHS staff know their value and so does the public – shame on the government who don’t.” Both unions will consult with their members to gauge the strength of sentiment towards the award.
The highly critical reaction from unions raises the possibility that the government could face a period of great discontent among NHS staff, especially nurses. Advisers, who have been seeking a 5% raise, recently warned that they may refuse to do overtime, paid or unpaid, in protest.
Labor attacked the “poor and ill-considered” proposal as another example of government shift. After their hypocrisy praised NHS staff as they tried to cut their salaries, the government must make NHS staff and key staff feel supported and appreciated after all they’ve done for us,” said Shadow Health Minister Justin Maders.
The Labor-run Welsh government has also said it is giving a 3% pay rise to NHS staff.
Labor also targeted what it said were real pay cuts for police officers. It was a blow to those who had “valiantly served the country throughout the pandemic,” said Nick Thomas Symonds, the home secretary in the shadows.