Socialist Worker

Throw out Tory health deal and defend the NHS

Issue No. 2597

Jeremy Hunt attacked junior doctors pay as a precursor to attacks on other health workers

Jeremy Hunt attacked junior doctors' pay as a precursor to attacks on other health workers (Pic: Julie Sherry)


The Tories showed their contempt for the health service and those who work in it with a miserly pay offer last week.

Anger over the NHS forced them to offer more than in the previous seven years—and retreat from proposals to steal a day’s annual leave.

The limited concessions show the Tories’ weakness—and that workers can win much more.

The offer still represents a real terms pay cut and tries to sneak productivity-linked pay through the back door. It would also slash unsocial hours pay for the lowest paid and ambulance workers.

Over a million health workers in England would get a 6.5 percent pay rise over three years—3 percent in 2018-19, then 1.7 percent in both following years. They would also get a 1.1 percent lump sum in the second year. But the RPI rate of inflation is running at 3.6 percent.

The overblown wage rises reported in the mainstream press include increments that workers would expect to receive anyway.

And fewer than 1 percent of NHS staff will receive the 29 percent that some reports quoted. One of the most pernicious proposals—overhauling pay increments—could see thousands lose out and boost bullying bosses.

Each pay band within the NHS’s Agenda for Change pay system is subdivided into increments. Health workers move up one annually automatically until they reach the top of their band.

This reflects the increased skill, experience and responsibilities that more senior staff have.

Generates

Moving up the increments generates a pay increase on top of any nationally agreed deal.

But this deal would see fewer increments and progression would not be annual. 

Worse still, the deal instructs bosses “to apply a process linked to appraisals before allowing staff to progress to the next pay point”.

This is productivity-linked pay through the back door. Appraisals would include reaching local targets, which an NHS crisis caused by underfunding has made near impossible to achieve.

It would give managers power to discriminate against those who are “difficult” or union activists.

And institutional racism and sexism in the NHS means black workers and women are likely to suffer most.

Health workers deserve much better. The 14 health unions had originally put in an above-inflation pay claim of 3.9 percent and an £800 lump sum.  

All the union leaderships—apart from the GMB—are now pushing for their members to accept this shoddy deal. 

There has to be a big campaign for rejection ahead of the health unions’ consultation that will begin in mid-April. Activists must tell their union leaders to reject the deal and ballot for strikes.

Strikes could win on pay—and force out Theresa May’s car-crash government. 


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