NHS staff who have suffered a 15% pay cut since 2010 have been offered a ‘new deal’ from the government. A leaked document shows that the offer would mean NHS staff will get 6.5% spread over three years. This would be conditional on NHS staff giving up a day’s holiday every year.
Inflation using the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) already hit 3.0% in January 2018. Using the Retail Price Index it is as much as 4%. When compared to rising inflation, the new ‘offer’ in the pipeline is not a pay rise, but in actual fact a substantial pay cut.
The leaked document shows a ‘pay rise’ of 3% in 2018/19 – just in line with the lower index of inflation, then 1.75% for the following two years after that. In that time, inflation is expected to continue rising, so when compared to the spiralling cost of food, transport, rent, electricity and gas, what is being offered is again another pay cut. Add on top of that the loss of holiday, every year for three years and insult is definitely being added to injury. The trade unions must throw this ‘offer’ out!
NHS workers have suffered year-on-year pay freezes and then eight consecutive years of a 1% pay cap. For all of this time inflation has gone up and up. Not only does this ‘offer’ do nothing to redress the 15% pay cut they have suffered in real-terms since 2010, it actually makes the gulf between the spiralling cost of living and the extremely low wages NHS workers are on even wider. Oxford palliative care doctor, Rachel Clarke, in the BMA union, said: ‘What utter penny-pinching meanness from this government. ‘Forcing NHS staff to lose a day of annual leave for life – for a paltry 3% pay rise this year (barely matching inflation) then two years of real-terms pay cuts.’ This ‘offer’ must be resoundingly rejected by every single one of the 12 health unions involved. They must fight for the million-plus NHS workers they represent.
You now have the appalling situation where nurses are forced to visit food banks, just in order to keep their children from starvation, because their pay is so poor. Vast amounts of public sector workers are taking out credit cards, just to pay off their monthly bills and stop themselves and their families from being evicted and thrown onto the streets. The health unions have to stand up and fight for their members.
In September, unions representing nurses and other NHS staff wrote to the Tory chancellor to demand a 3.9% pay rise and an extra £800 to make up for the cut they had seen in recent years. They must not step an inch back from this demand! In fact, the unions must go further, and take galloping inflation into account.
The unions must establish their own cost of living index, based on the basic necessities of working class life and demand that as price inflation rises for these vital commodities so must NHS workers’ wages, so that a 3.9 per cent wage rise retains its value for the whole year. When the government refuses, then the health unions must call strike action and mobilise the whole of the working class to strike with them to bring the Tory government down and bring in a workers’ government.
This will take action to better the lives of NHS workers and greatly improve the NHS itself so that it remains the great gain of the working class, by nationalising the banks and the major industries and putting them under workers’ management. This action will provide more than enough wealth to pay proper wages to NHS staff and to greatly improve the NHS so that it remains the lifesaver that it has been for the working class since it was founded in 1948.
On the other hand, if the trade union leaders were to accept the current NHS ‘offer’ workers must force them to resign, and must force the recall of their annual conferences to elect new leaders who are prepared to call a general strike to fight both for their members and for the millions of workers for whom the NHS is a life or death question!