MANY thousands of health workers have a chance from today to send a strong message of protest to health secretary Jeremy Hunt over his ‘contemptuous behaviour’ on NHS pay.
Unite is balloting its members over strike action in the autumn over the government’s ‘insulting’ pay offer, which was unilaterally imposed in England and Wales. The ballot closes on 26 September.
Unite will be joining other health unions in making a stand on pay. It is estimated the 1.3 million workers in the NHS have seen their pay fall by up to 15 per cent in real terms since the coalition came to power in May 2010.
Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: ‘Never have our members expressed such anger as they have on the pay issue. Jeremy Hunt has treated these hard-working health professionals with contempt.
‘Our members have an opportunity from today to vote in favour of industrial action and send a stark message that the health secretary should sit down with the unions and listen to our proposals for fair pay for the biggest workforce in the UK. We are confident of a positive result from our members.’
The pay situation is at different stages in the four countries of the UK: in England, there was a ‘divide and rule’ one per cent offer which meant that 600,000 NHS employees received no cost of living pay rise on 1 April 2014.
In Wales, the devolved government has agreed to a ‘living wage’ for all staff and an imposed one-off payment of £160, however, there is a wider dispute on terms and conditions. In Northern Ireland, there has been no decision made on pay.
In Scotland, the devolved government has agreed to pay the one per cent pay rise to all staff as recommended by the independent Pay Review Body (PRB) and to implement the ‘living wage’ by paying an extra £300 to low-paid workers. Unite has accepted this and will, therefore, not be balloting its members in Scotland.
Jeremy Hunt’s decision to reject the recommendation of one per cent for all workers by the PRB meant that only those at the top of their band pay received the one per cent increase in April.
An estimated 50 per cent of the NHS workforce is having to rely on their annual incremental increase, which is not necessarily guaranteed.