The Tories wants to cut NHS workers pay. They rushed out a 3 percent pay offer to health workers in England on Wednesday after a day of shambles and chaos.
This is lower than inflation, which was 3.9 percent in June according to the RPI measure.
Earlier in the day health minister Helen Whately stood up in the Commons for a much anticipated statement about pay. Instead, she said absolutely nothing on the subject.
Then later came the 3 percent announcement.
It’s more than the 1 percent the government originally wanted, but is still grossly inadequate.
One nurse tweeted, “3 percent is predictable and pathetic. It's time to get ballot ready.
“Every major health union should be recommending rejection. It will send a clear message to members—you are ready to fight for them.”
The offer doesn't even cover all NHS workers. Junior doctors are left out.
Outsourced health workers such as many cleaners and porters are excluded.
Some unions reacted angrily to the Tories’ plan. The GMB union’s statement said, “The pay offer has been sneaked out to avoid parliamentary scrutiny as MPs are packing up for summer.
“And it fails to match the 15 percent pay increase GMB has been calling for.
“GMB will be consulting members on this in the coming weeks and will be recommending they say no to the ‘paltry’ response from the government.”
The Labour Party was slow to put out its own statement and didn't call for a bigger pay rise. Perhaps that’s because in March it said 2.1 percent would be enough. Now the Tories have gone beyond that.
Labour was far happier attacking the pay freeze for most police which was also confirmed on Wednesday.
And the Labour government in Wales has also announced only a 3 per cent rise for NHS workers.
Diana, an east London NHS worker, told Socialist Worker, “Just as we face another wave of Covid-19, we get this insult.
“After a decade of real term cuts to pay, they offer another cut.
“Every day of delay and shrinking wages means more people feel demoralised and leave. It means more people who feel real hardship.”
She added, “The unions need to go on the offensive.”
It’s time for workers and the unions to organise to fight and strike. There is huge public support for NHS workers. Their resistance could become the focus for all those who are sickened by the Tories, their corruption and their appalling handling of Covid-19.
Unfortunately, there is little sign of real urgency from the union leaders.
The Unison union said it had “called an emergency meeting of our elected committee of NHS workers”. “Be assured,” it said, “members will be hearing from us very soon to ask what you want your union's next steps to be.”
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said, “Nursing staff will remain dignified in responding to what will be a bitter blow to many. But the profession will not take this lying down. We will be consulting our members on what action they would like to take next.”
It had announced a £35 million industrial action fund earlier this year. But a document sent to its workplace reps last week, seen by the Nursing Notes website, underlines how unwilling its leaders are to confront the government.
“Industrial action is a last resort”, the document highlights numerous times in bold red letters.
It lays out how the RCN would hold three ballots before any action—even though the first two are not a legal requirement.
First the union would ballot on whether people accepted the offer. If it was rejected, then there would be a consultative ballot over support for some form of action.
And only if RCN members responded favourably, would there be the formal ballot under the anti-union laws.
It will take an explosion of anger from below to burst through this bureaucratic foot-dragging and lack of confidence in a fightback.
Health workers need to build in their workplaces, strengthen the networks of activists—and demand support from workers and trade unionists everywhere.