Health secretary Jeremy Hunt tried to con health workers by claiming he had scrapped the Tories’ 1 percent pay cap.
He said this week that chancellor Phillip Hammond had given him “leeway” to negotiate pay rises from next year. But Hunt refused to say if there would be new funding. “That is something that I can’t answer right now,” he said when questioned by MPs.
And Hunt’s pledge is likely to give a much worse deal for NHS workers and patients. “The latitude that the chancellor has given me is partly linked to productivity improvements that we will negotiate at the same time,” he said.
“Productivity improvements” are bosses’ spin for health workers being made to have higher workloads as health services are slashed.
A combination of poverty pay and rocketing workloads are already pushing health workers out of the NHS. Hunt’s drive for higher productivity could make this situation worse—and put patient safety at risk.
Union leaders rightly poured scorn on Hunt’s words. Dave Prentis, Unison union general secretary, said, “The government’s announcement looks worryingly like a smoke and mirrors move with talk of ‘productivity improvements’.
“NHS staff, patients and services shouldn’t be made to suffer to fund a pay rise.”
Nor does Hunt’s announcement mean that 1.4 million health workers in England will get a “real terms”—adjusted for inflation—pay rise.
The higher Retail Price Index (RPI) rate of inflation is currently running at 3.9 percent, which means that anything less than that amounts to a pay cut in real terms.
And since the Tories got into office in 2010 nurses have suffered a 14 percent pay cut in real terms. That’s why fourteen unions and staff organisations last month put in pay claim of 3.9 percent and an £800 lump sum.
Hunt’s promise is hollow—but it shows that the Tories are still under pressure over pay.
Unions should not accept any spin or attempts at division from the Tories—and should ballot their members for strikes.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said it will ballot its members for industrial action if there isn’t any movement. This follows a pay consultation earlier this year where 74 percent of members said they would be willing to take industrial action.
The UCU union has said it will ballot members in some of its further education colleges and the PCS is also holding a consultative ballot.
This could make for a powerful coalition against the Tories.The TUC union federation’s pay rally in Parliament Square next Tuesday will be an opportunity to bring together the anger in the run up to the Hammond’s budget in November.
The unions should not accept any spin or attempts at division from the Tories—and should ballot their members for strikes. They could not only break the pay cap, but break Theresa May’s car crash government.