Socialist Worker

Health workers vote to accept NHS below-inflation pay deal

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2608

Unison leader Dave Prentis claimed he would smash the pay cap - but has failed to lead a fight over pay

Unison leader Dave Prentis claimed he would smash the pay cap - but has failed to lead a fight over pay (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Health workers in England and Wales have accepted a below-inflation pay deal cobbled together by the Tories, unions and NHS bosses.

The deal will mean that one million health workers will receive a 6.5 percent pay rise across the next three years. They would get 3 percent in 2018-19 and 1.7 percent in each of the following years.

With the RPI rate of inflation running at 3.3 percent, it still means a real terms pay cut for health workers.

The Tories and union leaders pushed the lie that many health workers would get pay rises of up to 23 percent.

And, worse still, the deal brings in productivity-linked pay through the back door by overhauling increments. The deal mandates “all employers to apply a process linked to appraisals before allowing staff to progress to the next pay point.”

Unison union members voted by 84 percent to accept on “around 30 percent turnout”.


The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) staff organisation members voted by 77 percent to accept the deal. The turnout this time was over 13,000 less than last spring’s consultation, which saw RCN members back strikes on pay by 78 percent.

It points to demoralisation that can set in when union leaders don’t give a lead.

The GMB was the one union that recommended rejection—and members voted against the pay deal by 87 percent.

Many health workers were angry about the deal, but didn’t see an alternative to accepting it because their leaders didn’t offer one. The Unison leadership even tried to silence branches from campaigning for rejection by claiming it was in breach of the rule book.

Activists should now organise in their workplaces to force strikes over issues such as pay up-grading or the new threats of privatisation.

  • The Scottish government has announced a 3 percent pay rise this year with the money paid next month.

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