“Pathetic”, “laughable and “insulting”. Those were the responses of angry health workers when shown their latest pay offer from the government.
The “revised” pay offer made by Gordon Brown’s government to health workers is a disgrace.
While the offer is ridiculously complex, the one clear thing is that it is low.
For those on the lowest pay, it will mean an additional 90p a week at best. For those on higher bands it will mean an extra 50p or 70p a week.
Nobody in England will even get the 2.5 percent rise recommended by the NHS pay review body – which the government has reduced to 1.9 percent by insisting on delivering the increase in two stages.
This offer is firmly within the 2 percent limit for all public sector workers set by Brown – and well below the rate of inflation, currently around 4 percent.
The leaders of the Unison union are balloting their members in the health service without a recommendation as to whether to accept or reject the offer.
Ballot papers go out on Monday of next week and the ballot closes on 13 September.
As part of the campaign against the pay offer, the Unison Oxfordshire health branch has been asking workers their thoughts on the deal.
Angie, a Unison steward, said, “The NHS must wake up and start appreciating its staff and not run us into the ground.”
A senior steward commented, “This pay offer is the last straw. People are angry and are ready for action. Let’s vote to throw out this dreadful pay offer.”
Clare, a steward and catering assistant, said, “This pay offer is disgusting – we should have been offered something at least in line with inflation. It’s a real blow to low paid workers.”
Work for nothing
A deputy ward manager said, “I object to a two stage pay award, and am prepared to take industrial action.”
One receptionist said, “The Agenda for Change pay deal cost us a lot and I think what we are being offered is a pay cut. It is not on. They expect us to work for nothing.”
A staff nurse said, “This pay offer shows the contempt we are held in. We need to stand up, or the appalling treatment that NHS workers have had will not stop.
“We should join other public sector workers on strike. Together we can win a pay rise, defend public services and gain the respect we deserve.”
There is a similar level of anger across the country.
Branches recommending a no vote include: Ayrshire and Arran health, Cambridge health, East London mental health, Leicestershire healthcare, Norfolk and Norwich university hospital, North West Anglia district health, North West London hospitals, Northumbria healthcare, Sheffield, Surrey and Sussex healthcare and Yorkshire Ambulance branches.
Some 95.1 percent of members of the Royal College of Nursing union voted yes in a consultative ballot for a formal ballot on industrial action this week. A poll of 2,000 nurses in the Nursing Times magazine showed that 87 percent of nurses were against the offer.
Workers in the Unite and GMB unions are also balloting on the deal. Unfortunately, the GMB is recommending acceptance. But there is still much to fight for. The Unite Bristol health service branch is recommending rejection.
Even where branches haven’t decided to recommend a rejection, activists are organising meetings to explain the derisory deal and get a no vote.
Getting the biggest possible no vote is a means of building for concerted industrial action in the public sector against Brown’s pay limit. The limit is hitting workers across the public sector.
In local government, Unison’s pay and single status group has recommended that the union proceeds to an industrial action ballot. The GMB and Unite are also preparing to ballot their members on industrial action.
Unison leaders will meet on Monday of next week to decide whether to go ahead with a ballot. In a consultative exercise, Unison members rejected the 2 percent pay offer. Some 81 percent of members and 95 percent of branches voted no.
The employers have made it clear that the decision over pay in local government ultimately rests with Gordon Brown. Unions have called for a 5 percent pay increase, or £1,000 a year, whichever is greater.