TORY leadership candidate Liz Truss was forced into a humiliating U-Turn yesterday, after saying in a ‘hustings’ meeting on Monday night that, as Prime Minister, she would abolish national pay for nurses, civil servants and other public sector workers and impose ‘regional pay’ instead.
Truss claimed that her plans would save the Treasury £8.8 billion a year.
Announcing her regional pay policy plans on Monday night, Truss said she wanted ‘a leaner, more efficient, more focused Whitehall’ and claimed she would make savings of £11bn a year, including £8.8bn from introducing regional pay boards.
Truss also claimed that by cutting average Civil Service leave entitlement by two days from 27 to 25, she would save £2 billion and also claimed that by sacking ‘diversity officers’ she would save £12 million a year.
Facility time, under which trade union representatives receive paid time off to focus on union work, would be banned, she said.
The Royal College of Nursing responded that her call for nurses’ pay to be cut ‘should sound the death knell for her political ambitions’.
RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive, Pat Cullen, said: ‘This is an attack on NHS values and a direct assault on its professionals.
‘Undermining trade unions and their members, diversity and employment rights are warped priorities when Ms Truss herself says hospitals are crumbling.
‘Thinking that salaries for nurses and support workers deserve cutting further should sound the death knell for her political ambitions.
‘There are already tens of thousands of unfilled nursing jobs and cutting salaries will drive many more out of the profession. These shortages mean that patient care is suffering.
‘National salaries are key to a national service. A move to regional pay in the NHS was defeated ten years ago and I give notice to Ms Truss that I would fight her just as strongly this time. Facilities time must be defended too.
‘This will be fresh in the minds of nursing staff when they vote on taking strike action in our upcoming industrial action ballot – enough is enough.
‘This comes on the very same day that households across Britain heard they should expect an annual energy bill of £3,615 this winter in the latest grim analysis by energy consultants. Our members are struggling and this announcement makes it harder.’
PCS civil servants’ union General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘If Liz Truss is elected, and if she tries to go ahead with these proposals, she’ll face opposition every step of the way.
‘Civil servants are not a political tool to be used and abused for one person’s ambition; they are the hard-working people who keep the country running, day in day out, and they deserve respect.’
Unison deputy head of health Helga Pile said: ‘The NHS is in the depths of the biggest staffing crisis it’s ever faced. Last month’s below-inflation pay award isn’t enough to stop experienced health workers from leaving a service that’s on the edge. This ridiculous policy would have spelt total disaster.
‘Cutting the wages of nurses, porters, paramedics and healthcare assistants in parts of the UK would have been the stuff of nightmares.’
A Truss spokesman claimed yesterday afternoon that there has been ‘a wilful misrepresentation of our campaign,’ adding: ‘Current levels of public sector pay will absolutely be maintained. Anything to suggest otherwise is simply wrong.’