THE overstretched and undervalued NHS workforce will not accept another below-inflation pay deal next year, trade unions representing over 1.1 million staff said yesterday.
UNISON Head of Health Karen Jennings told a press conference at UNISON headquarters in London: ‘We’re calling for a substantial, above inflation pay award for 2008-09.’
She said the government could no longer use the excuse of ‘spiralling debts’ to hold pay down.
‘This year we had a £0.5 billion surplus – that’s a £1 billion turnaround. We believe a substantial pay rise is now due to us.’
Sharon Holder, from the GMB trade union, said the GMB was ‘very concerned’ that the gap between its members’ pay in the NHS and the National Minimum Wage was getting rapidly smaller, with the lowest paid now on rates just 73p an hour above the legal minimum.
John Skewes, from the Royal College of Midwives, said: ‘Last year for the first time in the 125-year history of the Royal College of Midwives, midwives voted to say they were prepared to take some form of industrial action.’
He continued: ‘At the end of the day, the position of all the unions was that industrial action wouldn’t be taken forward.
‘But there’s a warning for the government there.’
Accusing the government of blatant interference in the pay review body’s recommendations, he said that this time: ‘The government needs to accept what the pay review body says, if not I think our members will carry out what they threatened to do last year.’
Barry Brown, from Unite (Amicus section), said this year had seen ‘the first staging of the pay award since the Major government over 10 years ago.’
Warning the government not to stage the pay review again next year, he said: ‘We don’t expect to see the undermining of the motivation and commitment of NHS staff for a second year running.’
Warren Town, from the Society of Radiographers, warned that 4,000 radiographers would leave the NHS in the next 10 years through retirement and that it would lead to a major staffing crisis, because students had become so disaffected by the low levels of pay and worsening conditions.
‘It is clear that our members are not prepared to spend their time being played like fools by the government,’ he said.
He added that the Society’s vote for industrial action was ‘never overturned – it was held in abeyance.’
Responding to questions from reporters, UNISON’s Jennings would not put a figure for the NHS unions’ pay claim.
She said they were submitting evidence to the pay review body and added: ‘It is very difficult for us to say what per cent we would want.
‘Inflation moves on and our evidence goes in quite early on in the calendar cycle.
‘Last year we effectively had a pay cut.’
Jennings added: ‘We base our evidence on the Retail Price Index, which includes house rentals and mortgage payments.
‘I wouldn’t want to get drawn into a discussion about industrial action at the moment.’