NHS workers furious over 7th year of pay cuts!

RCN banner demanding the scrapping of the government’s one per cent pay cap
RCN banner demanding the scrapping of the government’s one per cent pay cap

NHS WORKERS are furious that they are to receive a measly 1% pay increase in 2017-18 – in reality another massive pay cut – with the Tory government announcing on Tuesday that it backs the recommendations of various NHS pay review bodies.

Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the RCN, responded: ‘This deals a bitter blow to nursing staff across England. The nursing profession is rightly held in high regard but kind words don’t pay the bills. With this announcement, the government will deter new people from joining the nursing profession at the very moment it is failing to retain staff and European colleagues in particular head for the door.

‘It amounts to another real-terms cut to pay packets – the government is still refusing to keep nursing wages in line with inflation. The government has already cut nursing pay by 14 per cent in real-terms – leaving too many struggling and turning to foodbanks and hardship grants. Many nurses rely on working extra hours for the NHS as agency staff but, from next week, they will be forced to work through a “bank” and accept lower rates of pay than they get in their normal NHS job.

‘We do not support this agency ban – nurses should not work for less than they are worth and they have a right to work in whatever way is best for them. Ministers are ignoring the evidence that staff shortages put patient care and safety at risk. Tens of thousands of nursing jobs lie vacant today and the government missed the opportunity to stop that getting worse.’

Jon Skewes of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said: ‘It is extremely disappointing that the government is continuing with its disastrous policy of pay restraint for a seventh year. As a result of below-inflation increases for the past seven years midwives have seen their pay drop in value by over £6,000 since 2010; it is unsustainable for this to continue.

‘There is currently a shortage of 3,500 midwives in the NHS with many more midwives debating whether to leave midwifery because the pressures the service is currently under have created a situation in which midwives have never been so challenged in their ability to give high quality, safe care to women and their families.

‘80% of midwives who were intending to leave or have left the service told us they would be persuaded to stay if their pay was higher. When almost every professional group in the NHS has a shortage of staff, as midwifery does, the government need to intervene now to retain much-needed staff before it is too late.

‘The decision by the government to continue with pay restraint in the NHS is reckless in the extreme given the current shortage of staff and the two staffing crises that are looming on the horizon, namely the introduction of tuition fees for new midwifery and nursing students and the uncertain future of staff from other EU countries.

‘The government needs to take notice of the evidence that the RCM, and other NHS trade unions put to the NHS Pay Review Body and show they understand the seriousness of the staffing crisis in the NHS and work to retain existing NHS staff in the service. The NHS is reliant on midwives’, maternity support workers’ and all other NHS staffs’ goodwill and the government must start to recognise that. The government should show NHS staff they are valued by giving them a fair pay rise that is in line with inflation. Investment in staff is an investment in high quality, safe care.’

Dr Mark Porter, BMA Council chair, said: ‘The DDRB is recommending just a 1 per cent pay uplift for doctors, well below the current cost of living rise of 2.3 per cent. In real terms, doctors’ pay has sharply declined in the past five years, with junior doctors seeing their income drop by 17 per cent at a time when their morale has been badly hit by the government’s mishandling of the new contract.

‘Over the same period consultants have seen their pay drop by 14 per cent and GPs by 13 per cent. Doctors will be angered by this decision as it comes during a period when many are working harder than ever before in an environment of rising patient demand, stagnating budgets and staff shortages.

‘Hospital doctors and GPs are bearing the brunt of the funding crisis facing the NHS, and are choosing to leave. This is where rota gaps, consultant vacancies and closed GP practices start. While targeted incentives of the kind proposed in this report might sound positive, they do not ultimately address the serious overall problems that are widespread throughout the country.

‘With the NHS at breaking point, the health service needs a proper, long-term workforce plan and not piecemeal initiatives that offer only a short-term fix. We will analyse the DDRB report in detail, but these recommendations will come as a bitter blow to a workforce already wondering whether the government knows or cares about the demoralising effect of year-on-year pay cuts.’

Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis said: ‘Health service employees go above and beyond caring for patients and keeping the health service running – often in very challenging circumstances. The government insists it values them, but after endless pay freezes and wage caps, they feel taken for granted. Day after day, NHS staff are giving 100%, but getting just 1% in return.

‘As the gap grows between take-home pay and household expenditure, NHS staff can’t stretch their money far enough. And as wages increase elsewhere, they feel increasingly left behind. Low pay makes it tough for the NHS to hold onto experienced employees and recruit the next generation. And without enough staff, patient care will suffer. The pay of top judges and MPs has already breached the government’s 1% limit. It’s high time ministers stopped penalising NHS employees and gave them a decent pay rise.’

Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary for Public Services, said: ‘Public sector workers desperately need a real pay rise, not the miserly and cruel decision being imposed on them by the government. Dedicated professionals are hurting and the quality of services is deteriorating for everyone else.

‘Theresa May talks about helping those who are “just about managing,” but it’s clear that she doesn’t include over five million public sector workers. Imposing a 1 per cent settlement is an insult to our selfless NHS staff and other public sector workers – who keep us safe day in, day out.

‘GMB will write to Jeremy Hunt urging him to think again on this unnecessarily vicious pay decision.

‘Public servants are enduring an even worse squeeze than under Thatcher and Major, and most have not seen a real-terms pay increase in almost a decade. Most of the public support a proper pay rise for the public sector staff, and these latest figures should be a wake up call for Ministers.

‘Theresa May needs to put her money where her mouth is and give public sector workers the above-inflation pay deal they deserve. It’s not on – this pay pinch must end.’

Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter said: ‘What the PRB has proposed is woefully inadequate and means that the majority of NHS staff will have experienced a loss of income in real terms of about 17 per cent since 2010. This won’t staunch the recruitment and retention crisis currently affecting many healthcare professions, which is exacerbated by the ugly Brexit shadow hanging over the future of the estimated 55,000 EU nationals working for the NHS.

‘Health secretary Jeremy Hunt often speaks warm words in support of NHS staff, but the reality is that he has been quite content to see this serious erosion in NHS pay continue – he has adopted this complacent attitude since taking up the health portfolio in 2012. Our members deserve so much more – and the public recognises this fact far more clearly than Tory ministers.

‘Lurking in the background are the 44 Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) for England which, we believe, are a subversive vehicle to privatise NHS services and this may have a severe impact on pay, and terms and conditions in the future.’

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘Today’s report is a damning indictment of the government’s public sector pay restrictions. Health workers are facing even bigger real pay cuts than expected. It’s no wonder it’s so tough to hire and retain good staff. Cuts to bursaries and extra workloads aren’t helping either. We agree with the Pay Review Body that the government needs to change its policy. It’s time to scrap the pay restrictions and get a proper strategy to attract NHS staff.’

NHS workers are sick and tired of hearing their trade union leaders condemning the Tory pay freeze/pay cut year after year and doing absolutely nothing to fight against it. The pleading from Unison’s Prentis and the friendly advice from the TUC’s O’Grady is revolting, while the GMB’s threat of a letter to Hunt would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.

The NHS year-on-year pay cuts are an essential part of the 44 Tory Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs), to achieve £20 billion of NHS cuts by 2020. In his Budget earlier this month Chancellor Hammond said some ‘pioneer’ STPs are to be ‘fast-tracked’ and implemented before the end of this year, seeing A&E and other departments at a number of vitally needed District General Hospitals closed.

This Tory government is driven by the world economic and political crisis of capitalism, and British capitalism’s acute bankruptcy within that, to force through the STPs and ‘slash, trash and privatise’ the NHS urgently and at all costs. What’s needed now is strike action across the health unions to smash the pay cuts and smash the STPs. This must be joined by all trade unions and the whole working class to defend the NHS, leading to a general strike to bring down the Tories and go forward to a workers government and a socialist society. Join the Workers Revolutionary Party today to build the leadership required to win this fight.