RCN SETTING UP A £35m STRIKE FUND

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Nurses march last July for a pay rise – now the budget has given them another slap in the face

FOLLOWING the recommendation of the ‘slap in the face’ 1% pay award by the Department of Health and Social Care in its evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body, the Governing Council of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) convened an emergency meeting.

At that meeting, the RCN Council voted unanimously for the RCN to immediately set up a £35 million Industrial Action fund.

RCN Council are determined to have the finances available to members to take action.

Such is the anger of nurses, the RCN has created the UK’s largest union strike fund overnight. The next steps will be decided in conjunction with members.

Unite condemned the government’s desire to see NHS pay capped at one per cent as ‘callous and an enormous slap in the face’ for the NHS workforce that has, literally, given their lives during the pandemic.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: ‘The government’s evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body, due to report in May, saying that it wants the pay of NHS staff pegged at one per cent is callous and takes no account of the public mood.

‘During the pandemic, NHS staff were on the frontline 24/7 saving patients’ lives and caring for the dying. More than 620 NHS and social care staff lost their lives to Covid-19.’

She added: ‘The prime minister owes his life to dedicated NHS staff and now he has delivered an enormous slap in the face to health workers.

‘The public will be incensed by this announcement as they have shown wonderful support to the NHS during this national crisis.

‘The government has badly misjudged public opinion on this issue, especially given the vast sums splashed out in controversial contracts for PPE to those with close links to the Tory establishment.

‘Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, will continue to make the case strongly that NHS staff, deserve an immediate pay rise of £3,000-a-year or 15 per cent, whichever is greater.

‘Even this figure won’t start to make up for the 19 per cent decrease in pay in real terms that many NHS workers have lost since the Tories came to power in 2010.’

The GMB has slammed the government, stating that ‘The pay of many long-serving NHS workers has been devalued by 15 per cent over the last decade of austerity and pay freezes.

‘And yesterday, the Office for Budgetary Responsibility predicted that inflation this year would be 1.5% (CPI) or 2.5% (RPI), meaning that a 1 per cent pay rise would in fact amount to a real terms pay cut.’

Rachel Harrison, GMB National Officer, said: ‘This news will come as yet another kick in the teeth for NHS workers.

‘Our members in the NHS have risked everything to battle the coronavirus and keep the public safe – a below-inflation one per cent rise would be a paltry insult.

‘GMB is calling on the Pay Review Body to do the right thing and show the government’s PRB submission the same disregard that Ministers have shown our members.’

The BMA accused the government of ‘dereliction of duty’ over its recommendation of a 1% pay rise for doctors.

The Chair of BMA Council, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: ‘Throughout the pandemic, doctors have cared for more critically ill patients than was ever thought possible and worked round the clock despite suffering from extreme stress and exhaustion, with BMA surveys showing significant numbers of doctors selflessly working extra hours without pay.’

Of the 1% offer, he said: ‘This comes as a kick in the teeth after a decade in which doctors have experienced real-terms pay cuts of up to 30% and in the same week as the Chancellor has announced a huge increase in the taxation on doctor’s pensions that will leave virtually all doctors worse off.’

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: ‘Following yesterday’s “slap in the face’’ announcement that the government wants to peg NHS pay at one per cent for 2021-22, Unite will be considering all its options, including the holding of an industrial action ballot, as our pay campaign mounts in the coming weeks.

‘We will be fully consulting our members on the next steps, given that inflation could be two per cent by the end of 2021, so what prime minister Boris Johnson is recommending is another pay cut in real terms.’