The lifting of the pay cap on NHS staff is insufficient in compensating for eight years of real-terms pay cuts, according to health trade unions.
The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced an offer amounting to a three-year pay deal for 1.3 million staff, ending a seven year wage cap in the service. The deal offers three per cent this year, two per cent next year and one per cent in 2020. Hunt described it as a “something for something” deal reflecting previous government rejections of any increase without improvements and reform within the NHS. If accepted by staff the proposed increases will start in July but be backdated to April.
Thirteen of the 14 health unions have indicated they will accept the offer, with the GMB holding out for a wider and deeper lifting of the cap. Both unions and the government agreed that the new payments – based on £4.2 billion freed up by the Treasury – should go towards help for the lowest-paid NHS staff.
The deal takes the lowest starting salary from £15,404 to £18,005. The 50 per cent of staff who are already at the top of their pay scale. But the other half will receive pay rises of between 9 and 29 per cent. A newly-qualified nurse will attract a salary rising from £22,128 to £26,970’ an increase of 22 per cent and a specialist nurse will see their salary rise by 29 per cent from £31,696 to £37,890.
Unions were united in calling for a deal to apply to workers in other parts of the public sector. Sarah Carpenter, Unite’s national organiser for health, said the offer should act as a precedent.
“Unite welcomes many aspects of this deal. But we regard this as the start, not the end of the journey for true pay justice which we will continue to campaign for in the coming months and years.
“This is something we believe the government should have done a long time ago and they should do so now for other public sector workers who have endured a similarly rigid pay policy.”
A similar call was made by the TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady while the Royal College of Nursing’s Janet Davis said the deal would make working for the NHS “attractive again”.
There are at least 100,000 vacancies in the service. Doctors have separate negotiating arrangements.