Vote ‘NO!’ to NHS pay offer! – 6.5% increase over 3 years means a real terms pay cut

GMB members marching in defence of the NHS – the union is recommending a rejection of the pay offer
GMB members marching in defence of the NHS – the union is recommending a rejection of the pay offer

A CONSULTATION of NHS workers was launched at the Unison health conference in Brighton on Monday on the new ‘pay deal’. Unison members must defy their union leadership and vote ‘NO!’ to the deal.

The pay deal will affect over a million hospital porters, 999 call handlers, healthcare assistants, nurses, midwives and other health staff across the UK. Unison members in the NHS are to vote on the deal by June the 5th, and while Unison is urging their members to vote yes to the deal, GMB has rightly told their members to vote ‘NO!’

The three-year pay deal, GMB explain, is actually a pay cut! Accepting the deal also means accepting the end of hard earned NHS working conditions. Despite this fact Roz Norman, the chair of Unison’s health service group executive, told delegates at conference that the ‘hard work of activists in the Pay Up Now campaign played a crucial role in forcing pay to the top of the political agenda’.

‘The consultation has launched today and runs until 5 June – we want everyone to take part,’ she said. And if the proposals are accepted, the extra funding for English health budgets will go through the Barnett formula into budgets in Scotland, Cymru/Wales and Northern Ireland. We can then enter talks in each country about whether and how to implement the agreement in a way that would work for them.’

The GMB is recommending that its members vote to reject the Tory government’s NHS pay offer. It says: ‘For long-serving NHS workers a 6.5% increase over three years actually means a real-terms pay cut with inflation set to hit 9.6% during same period. The OBR forecasts 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. GMB cannot recommend members sign up for yet more pay cuts.’

GMB rightly recommends their members to reject the Tory government’s NHS pay offer, as a 6.5% pay increase over three years, when compared with rising inflation, is in real terms a pay cut. Around 500,000 NHS workers are facing an open wage cut. However, as the details of the deal emerge we find that it is even worse than first seemed.

The text of the agreement reads:

‘4.3 The new pay progression system will:

a. enable staff in Bands 2-7 to reach the top of their pay band more quickly

b. describe minimum periods of time before progression to the next pay-step point

c. not be automatic

d. give staff the opportunity to demonstrate they have met the required standards, including appraisals

e. require line managers and staff to follow the pay-step submission process (described in the pay progression framework document) in order to access the next pay-step point

f. require employers to provide information to enable the NHS Staff Council to undertake monitoring of pay progression and re-earnable pay in relation to employees with protected characteristics.’

It is c which is one of the big issues. This means that pay will no longer rise on an annual basis and the worker will be reduced to a helpless individual who has to conform to a number of standards before being considered for an increase.

This means that for these large number of workers, any increase which they initially get could well be their last, as far as Health Secretary Hunt and his new procedures are concerned. For these groups of workers it means the end of annual wage claims and annual increases and creates the conditions where government legislation decides when there should be a pay increase for the individual workers.

Any increases will have to be ‘performance-related’ where the employees will be individually appraised. Unison, Unite, the RCN and the RCM, however, lauded this as a good deal and recommended their members accept.

The GMB is correct to oppose the deal and to stand up for trade unionism and for trade union solidarity with no state control and no doubt will get the support of many thousands of health workers who are currently non-GMB members. In fact buried deep within the 21-page document outlining the new pay offer is a statement that reveals the true nature of this agreement.

This reads: ‘The intentions of the reforms to the pay structure is that by the end of the three year period . . . individuals will have the basic pay that is of greater value than under current expectations (which are defined as a 1% pay award per annum plus contractual increments).’

In other words the only ‘expectation’ is that workers will have a bit more than the Tory cap of 1% including incremental rises. Under this proposed agreement, incremental increases will cease to be an automatic right with pay increasing on an annual basis. Instead, increments will be subject to individual negotiations between workers and their management with any increases being linked to ‘performance related’ appraisals.

No wonder Tory health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, crowed in parliament that he had put ‘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’.

This is performance related pay where every single worker is forced to negotiate their own pay increases with management who can rule that if targets are not met then no pay increase. Workers refused incremental pay increases could find themselves with pay increases actually below the existing 1% pay cap!

Forcing workers to negotiate their own pay undermines the very foundation of trade unions as organisations for collective bargaining, after all if workers are forced to negotiate their own pay then what good are unions for?

Now leaders of the biggest health unions like Unite and Unison are prepared to dump collective bargaining and leave their members as mere individuals to face the employer on their own. These leaders must be thrown out and replaced by a leadership that will mobilise the huge militancy of NHS workers against this Tory government.

Every NHS worker should follow the lead of the GMB and throw out this treacherous deal and demand a campaign of all-out industrial action around the demand for a real pay increase of 20% over three years, to begin making up for all the cuts of the past and protect their members from future inflation.

If the Tories will not concede, as they surely won’t, then the health unions must demand the TUC call a general strike to kick out the Tories and go forward to a workers government that will expropriate the bankers and use their vast wealth to fund the NHS and provide decent wages for every worker under a planned socialist economy.