Socialist Worker

Pay blackmail won’t save jobs

Issue No. 2232

Bosses are trying to blackmail more than a million NHS workers into accepting pay cuts in exchange for paper-thin “guarantees” of job security.

In addition to the below-inflation cost of living “rises” most health workers already face next year—and a pay freeze for many the year after—NHS bosses now want staff to accept a two‑year cap on incremental pay.

These automatic pay rises reflect workers’ growing skills and experience.

The cuts would mean, for example, a maternity care assistant, currently earning just £18,152 a year, losing more than £1,500 over the two years of the increment freeze.

Bosses say that government demands for “efficiency savings” worth £20 billion mean that jobs, pay and patient care—or all three—must be slashed in order to balance the books.


Halting pay progression would net them around £2 billion a year.

But the so-called “guarantees and incentives” they are proposing in return are not worth the paper they are written on.

The offer of no compulsory redundancies does not mean no job losses.

Thousands of posts will be lost as workers retire or change role—and those who are left will be expected to work longer and harder to make up for them.

And highly skilled workers in pay bands not covered by the offer, like specialist health visitors, could still face the sack.

Unison union leaders say workers face a “difficult choice”.

But Unison health executive member, Karen Reissmann, says NHS staff should not accept the logic of cuts.

“As a union, we face a choice,” she said, in a personal capacity. “Either we can start giving up our hard-won pay, terms and conditions—and watch as the government and bosses sense our weakness and come back for more.

“There are some senior officials in my own union that seem to be suggesting we do just that.

“Alternatively, we can draw inspiration from the students’ struggle and start our own fightback.

“The potential to unite millions of service users and workers is there.

“We need to grasp it.”

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Tue 14 Dec 2010, 17:30 GMT
Issue No. 2232
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