By Charlie Kimber
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Nurses’ pay down £1,600 a year if Tories impose below-inflation pay deal

Health workers have to push their union leaders to fight for an above inflation pay rise
Issue 2808
A nurse with a megaphone leads a health workers' protest over NHS pay over two years ago

Health workers stage an NHS pay protest in London two years ago

Health workers are heading for a massive pay cut unless there is real resistance. The government is set to impose a pay rise well below the soaring rate of inflation.

Unions believe that the NHS Pay Review Body has made its recommendation to the government for this year’s pay rise—due from April. They are waiting for ministers to make an announcement.

The TUC union federation said nurses’ pay will be down by as much as £1,600 in real terms this year if ministers push through a 3 percent settlement. Porters’ real pay will be down by £1,000, maternity care assistants’ by £1,200 and paramedics’ by up to £2,000.

A below-inflation pay rise for NHS staff this year would be “swallowed up” just by rising energy costs. Energy prices are rising 40 times faster than NHS workers’ wages this year in the event of a 3 percent settlement, said the TUC. It warned that NHS workers were on the brink, after a “brutal decade” of pay cuts that have left them thousands of pounds worse off.

NHS workers in England received a 3 percent pay rise last year. And unions say ministers have asked the NHS Pay Review Body to recommend a similar award this year, despite RPI inflation reaching double figures.

The TUC said its study showed that nurses’ real pay was down £5,200 compared with 2010. It warned that stagnant wages have played a major role in the “crippling staff shortages” in the NHS.

Christina McAnea, general secretary of the Unison union, said some of her members were likely to strike in the coming months, faced by real terms pay cuts. “I’m not saying there will be strikes tomorrow, but there’s a lot of anger out there, and people become more desperate,” she said.

Meanwhile in Scotland, where health workers received 4 percent last year, nurses have threatened to go on strike. They are warning of a “summer of discontent” if first minister Nicola Sturgeon does not approve at least a 10 percent pay rise.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) warned that chronic staff shortages, driven by “demoralised, overworked and underpaid” workers leaving the NHS, were now putting patients at risk. Colin Poolman, the RCN director, warned Sturgeon and health secretary Humza Yousaf, “Don’t take nurses for granted, because they can show their strength.”

He told the Scottish Mail on Sunday that Scottish nurses were “getting to the same place” as those in Northern Ireland. RCN members went on strike in 2019 for the first time in the union’s history.

Last year a series of demonstrations launched by rank and file activists across Britain showed the potential for a real fight over pay. But the unions went through a series of consultative ballots, backed by only lacklustre campaigns, that sapped the energy from activists. When the turnouts were below those demanded by the anti-union laws, union leaders said that was the end of the push for a proper pay rise.

Health workers everywhere should push for big delegations on the 18 June TUC demonstration in London. They should join rail workers’ picket lines if they strike later this month. And they should strengthen their workplace networks in preparation for the coming confrontation with the Tories.

US vulture eyes NHS data

US data analytics group Palantir is gearing up to run the underlying operating system for the NHS. According to the Financial Times newspaper, it is poaching senior NHS officials. It’s part of a bid to win a £360 million contract to manage the data of millions of patients across England. 

The company, best known for its ties to the military and espionage sectors, has been the NHS’s go-to data analytics provider during its Covid-19 crisis. 

The secretive company was co-founded by Peter Thiel, an early investor in Facebook and prominent supporter of former US president Donald Trump. It is now manoeuvring to expand its reach into the NHS over the next decade.

Phil Booth is the founder of health data advocacy group medConfidential. He said, “Many are already concerned about commercial interests having involvement at all let alone a company that helped Trump with his ICE detentions at the Mexican border. Is this a proper corporate entity to be working at the heart of the NHS?”

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