NHS pay deal ‘will mean a pay cut for the most loyal, longest serving NHS workers’ says GMB

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Nurses rally in Parliament Square demanding that the pay cap be smashed
Nurses rally in Parliament Square demanding that the pay cap be smashed

THE GMB, which represents many of the lowest paid NHS workers, is recommending that its members reject the new pay deal proposed by the Tories for 1.3 million NHS staff who have endured effective pay cuts of around 20% since 2010. The GMB says the deal, an average of 6.5% over three years, will mean a real terms pay cut for the most loyal, longest-serving NHS workers, with the OBR forecasting that RPI inflation is set to increase by 9.6% over the next three years.

‘Since 2010, paramedics have lost an average of over £14,000, midwives £18,000 and staff nurses £14,500 thanks to the government’s cruel and unnecessary pay cap,’ said the GMB on Wednesday.

GMB said it cannot recommend members sign up for yet more pay cuts.

Kevin Brandstatter, GMB National Officer, said: ‘Jeremy Hunt’s promise of jam tomorrow is simply not good enough for NHS workers who, during the past eight years, have faced the biggest pay pinch in living memory. ‘Long-serving, dedicated health service workers have had thousands of pounds swiped from their pay packets since 2010 by the government’s cruel and unnecessary pay cap. ‘After all that suffering is a below inflation pay rise the best they can offer?

‘If it is, GMB will have to recommend that our members in NHS and Ambulance Trusts reject it. ‘This deal won’t allow them to claw any of that cash back – in fact, for longer serving, most loyal NHS workers the 6.5% increase over three years actually means a real terms pay cut. ‘This deal doesn’t put things right and continues to punish those who have endured the pinch on pay.

‘It does nothing to address the recruitment and retention crisis that is driving workers from our NHS and has left 100,000 positions unfilled. ‘And it leaves the door being opened to new employees in the NHS being employed on worse terms and conditions than existing health service workers through third party shell companies which is deeply troubling.’

In contrast, the other health unions welcomed the Tory plan. Unison described it as ‘a proposal for a far-reaching modernisation of the NHS pay structure in England over the next three years, which would result in significant pay rises for every single member of staff and could turn the tide of the NHS staffing crisis.’

Unison continued: ‘The union has led intense and detailed negotiations over a number of months, which have resulted in the proposed framework agreement between NHS unions, employers and the government. ‘The key aim of the proposed agreement is to make the whole NHS pay system “fairer and better” for current and future staff. ‘In the first instance, over a million hospital porters, 999 call handlers, healthcare assistants, nurses, midwives and other NHS staff across England are being offered long-overdue pay rises of between 6.5% and 29% over the three-year period.

‘This could mean an increase for lower-paid staff that would take them above the living wage, substantial increases to starting salaries, meaningful pay rises on promotion, faster progression through most pay bands – and more. ‘The Treasury has committed to fully funding the proposals, to the tune of £4.2bn, which means that pay increases will not have to be met by cuts to jobs or patient care. ‘Now Unison is putting the proposal to its NHS members – urging everyone to give their views on the deal and to vote in the consultation that will open in the middle of April.’

Unison head of health Sara Gorton, who was the lead pay negotiator for the NHS unions, said: ‘Seven years of pay freezes and wage increases well below the cost of living meant significant financial hardship for health staff and their families. ‘It’s also created headaches for employers as they’ve struggled to attract new recruits and hold onto experienced staff.

‘The agreement would mean an end at last to the government’s self-defeating and unfair 1% pay cap. It won’t solve every problem in the NHS, but it would go a long way towards making dedicated health staff feel more valued, lift flagging morale and help turn the tide on employers’ staffing problems.

‘These are only proposals,’ she added. ‘The most important thing is for members to find out what it means to them and to tell us what they think. We have a website that will give people all the information they need, including a pay calculator that shows what would happen to their individual pay over the three years. ‘All affected members will have a chance to have their say on NHS pay and to have a vote. ‘The union will be emailing NHS members today with details of the proposals.’

Unison says that the proposed framework includes:

•‘Major increases for staff who are below the top of their bands, simplifying bands so that most staff reach the full rate for their job faster. This could be worth between 9% and 29% over the three years. •‘Meaningful increases for top-of-band staff – for most, this would be worth 6.5% over three years, plus a 1.1% lump sum in year two. •‘Removal of band overlaps, to ensure that promotion comes with a proper pay rise. •‘Ending poverty pay through an immediate move to a new minimum rate that is above the living wage, with further increases for the lowest-paid staff by the end of the deal.

•‘Big improvements to starting salaries, to help the NHS attract and retain new staff.

‘Most terms and conditions would remain unchanged, including annual leave.

‘There would be no fundamental changes to unsocial hours payments, though there would be adjustments affecting some staff to maintain the integrity of the system. ‘A majority of the NHS trade unions are recommending this agreement to their members, as they believe it is the best deal available through negotiation.’

Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter said: ‘Unite welcomes many aspects of this deal, on which we will be consulting our membership over the next couple of months. ‘Unite’s national health committee has discussed the deal and agreed to put it out for the members to decide, with the recommendation to accept. Our work is now to inform and consult our membership. They will be balloted during April and May, at the same time as other NHS unions.’ Unite has 100,000 members working in the health service.

Royal College of Nursing associate director employment relations Josie Irwin said: ‘Members campaigned hard to put an end to the years of poor pay rises and this deal is a significant move in the right direction from a government still committed to austerity. ‘When there are 40,000 unfilled nurse jobs in England alone, it should begin to make the profession more attractive to nurses of today and tomorrow alike.

‘Starting salaries will be higher and current nursing staff will reach the top of their pay bands much faster than before, without changes to their leave entitlement or unsocial hour payments. With this agreement, the government and NHS has acknowledged that the greatest rise in productivity will come from a healthy and motivated workforce.’

Janet Davies, RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary, said: ‘Today’s deal is neither a magic wand nor a blank cheque but commits significant government cash to overlooked NHS staff without making any unpalatable demands in return. For that reason, we will be asking members to vote in favour.  ‘There are 40,000 unfilled nurse jobs in England alone and this should begin to make the profession attractive again. ‘The next three years could be turbulent and this deal gives NHS workers some much-needed stability.’

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: ‘Agenda for Change contract negotiations have resulted in a long overdue pay offer for these staff groups. ‘The government must now address the pay gap for doctors through the DDRB process. Ongoing pay restraint has seen doctors’ pay fall by around 20 per cent over the last decade, leading to staff shortages and impacting on patient care.

‘The government must acknowledge the hard work and dedication of doctors in the context of several years of below inflation pay increases, and reflect this in a fair deal for our members. ‘We will be examining the details of this announcement for any potential impact on our members.’

In the House of Commons on Wednesday Health Secretary Hunt delivered a statement peppered with implied insults and veiled threats to NHS workers, welcoming what he presented as an already done deal. Hunt said: ‘The agreement which NHS trade unions have recommended to their members today is a something for something deal which brings in profound changes in productivity in exchange for significant rises in pay. ‘It will ensure better value for money from the £36 billion NHS pay bill, with some of the most important changes in working practices in a decade, including a commitment to work together to improve the health and wellbeing of NHS staff to bring sickness absence in line with the best in the public sector.

‘We know that NHS sickness rates are around a third higher than the public sector average and reducing sickness absence by just 1% will save around £280 million. ‘Putting appraisal and personal development at the heart of pay progression with often automatic incremental pay replaced by larger, less frequent pay increases based on the achievement of agreed professional milestones.’

Health unions will now ballot their members over the pay offer and if the proposals are accepted the pay rise should be in July wage packets, backdated to April. If they’re not accepted, the NHS pay increase for 2018/19 will be determined through the usual mechanism, and be based on NHS pay review body recommendations.