THE CORONAVIRUS pandemic reinforces – not diminishes – the strong case for the NHS workforce to receive a ‘beyond substantial’ pay rise for 2021-22, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said yesterday 3 July.
Unite has joined with 13 other health unions and professional organisations to launch a campaign to demand that pay talks start as soon as possible out of respect for the dedicated NHS staff who have battled Covid-19.
Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health sector, said that the last three year pay deal had started to rectify the pay deficit, but this now needs to be substantially built on.
Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: ‘Warm words of praise by ministers and the weeks of Thursday evening clapping by a grateful nation are only part the story – and that’s why a generous pay rise is required to repair the damage of the last decade when pay in real terms was eroded by an estimated 20 per cent.
‘A “softly, softly” approach will fall on fallow ground, as the Tory “mask” on the NHS begins to slip away – last week some 331 Conservative MPs opposed a motion that would have led to weekly testing of NHS workers and care staff.
‘This hard-faced attitude was also highlighted by care minister Helen Whately who confirmed the government had “no plans” to backdate a new financial support package that is set to be introduced for students starting this autumn.
‘Now the lockdown is being eased, it was clear the Tories are reverting to type when it comes to their distaste for public services, of which the NHS is “the jewel in the crown”.
‘Doctors, nurses and health workers of all hues, including student nurses and those who came out of retirement, stepped up to the plate big-time when the lockdown was imposed in March and the NHS was under severe pressure – and, sadly, more than 300 NHS and social care workers have now died after being infected with coronavirus.
‘NHS staff don’t want ministerial platitudes on pay on the eve of the NHS’ 72nd birthday on Sunday (5 July), but a beyond substantial pay rise for their commitment, especially over the last few months when they have put their lives on the line, literally.
‘As society returns slowly to the “new normal”, the government cannot be allowed to forget the dedication of NHS staff.’
Before lockdown, NHS Digital reported that between January and March this year, there were 84,393 advertised full-time equivalents in England – these ‘recruitment and retention’ issues are still relevant and important, and need to be addressed by health and social care secretary Matt Hancock.
An uplift in pay will start to tackle these recruitment problems.
Unite has signed-up to the plan of the joint health unions to bring about better pay for NHS staff, which Unite believes has widespread public support.
Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe added: ‘People are fully engaged with the concept that without the NHS and its staff, the appalling death toll of nearly 44,000 would be even worse – and that the years of underfunding must cease. Increased funding must include budgets to tackle the backlog in non-Covid operations and procedures.
‘Many, including prime minister Boris Johnson, owe their lives to the NHS – and now is the time to recognise that 24/7 commitment with a decent pay rise that reflects the sentiments of a grateful and relieved country.’