The Scottish government’s offer last week to increase NHS pay by 4 percent has been met with fury by many health workers.
“It’s a complete and utter insult,” said Pauline Brady, a mental health nurse from the West of Scotland.
“This offer works out as an extra £14 a week for me,” she told Socialist Worker. “That doesn’t even cover the increases in my household bills.”
So far, Scottish health workers have mixed feelings about how to respond.
“Some people are simply saying, ‘jog on’, this award is part of a political game before the coming Scottish elections,” said Pauline, who is also a rep for the GMB union. “And lots of people say they’re still prepared to strike.
“But there is a hesitancy among some nurses. We’re often told to be grateful for doing the job we love—we do it because we care. It’s true we care, but we’ve got to make a living too.”
The offer, although higher than the 1 percent suggested by Boris Johnson’s government for English NHS workers, falls short of the unions’ pay claim.
Unison is demanding a rise of “at least” £2,000 a year, while the nurses’ RCN union wants 12.5 percent.
So it’s likely that some union leaders will reject the offer.
But already the Unite union has said it will put the deal out to ballot among the membership.
Some union leaders are enthusiastic about the Scottish offer. Unison head of health Sara Gorton said, “This shows where there’s a political will there’s most definitely a way.
“Valuing health staff and investing in the NHS is a political choice.
“One that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are choosing not to make.”
The response from both Unite and Unison suggest that the Scottish government offer is the best that can be got.
But that’s nonsense.
The mood to strike has spread across the NHS.
Most health workers are clear that the way to solve the staffing crisis and improve patient care is to raise pay.
“We are worth far more,” said Pauline. “But if we don’t fight, we’ll never know how much more we could get.”
Fight needed in England too
The Scottish government’s offer of a 4 percent pay rise to health workers threatens all NHS staff.
Unions representing workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland could abandon their original demands and instead use Scotland as a benchmark.
The NHS Pay Review Body will make its recommendation in June. They’ll possibly say a rise of 1 percent isn’t enough and instead suggest a slightly higher figure.
Some unions will say, even though the offer isn’t sufficient, it’ll still be put to a ballot.
That would send a message that the union isn’t serious about fighting.
The best way of resisting that process is to take action now, not to wait until June.
The Unison union planned a day of action this Thursday. But it has done nothing to build it. Some workers planned to agitate and raise the issue of strikes.