Nursing Times reports that the NHS Pay Review Body’s recommendation on NHS workers, is due “sometime this month” (June), despite delay.
The PRB was originally supposed to report in May. The Tory government has already said in its evidence to the PRB that 1% is all that is “affordable” — it uses the word 16 times in its submission — and it is the government that makes the final decision.
The system of supposedly independent pay review bodies in the public sector — replacing actual collective bargaining between unions and employers — is a farce, designed to shift power further from workers to employers. The labour movement must rally round the Fire Brigades Union’s fight to block the imposition of a pay review body in the fire service.
Holly Turner of NHS Workers Say No tells Solidarity that it will take “sustained [strike] action” to significantly shift the government. The fight to get that action steps up with the NHS workers’ protests across the country on 3 July.
Unison’s output remains vague on what it is actually demanding; on paper it is calling for £2,000 for every worker, but it endorsed a lower offer, 4%, in Scotland. On 23 June it is hosting a public event whose keynote speaker is Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth, who is advocating only a 2.1% rise.
The traditionally very conservative and strike-averse RCN is publicly arguing for its demand of 12.5%, won its members to reject the Scottish offer, and has set up a £350 million strike fund.
We must strengthen and support health workers’ efforts, like NHS Workers Say No and Nurses United, to organise across unions and independently of all the union leaderships.
What health workers have done and suffered during the pandemic dramatises their need for a substantial pay rise. But the issues are longer-running.
Most NHS workers have suffered deep real-terms pay cuts over the last decade, in many cases 20% or more. The demand of 15% or £3,000, whichever is higher, would simply begin to restore some of this loss. NHS Workers Say No is also rightly calling for outsourced workers not on mainstream NHS terms and conditions to be brought onto them.
A pay rise of this order is needed for the morale of health workers and their ability to provide decent services; for retention and recruitment of staff in an NHS with an exhausted and demoralised workforce, and up to 100,000 vacancies; for making a better-paid workforce less appealing to grasping private contractors; and for workers’ organised strength to defend and bolster the health service in battles to come.
In fact all workers, not just NHS workers, “deserve” a big pay rise — particular at a time when the wealth of the super-rich has spiralled.
15% or £3,000 for everyone working in the NHS would cost about £5bn a year. During the pandemic UK billionaires have increased their wealth by over £100bn (to say nothing of the more numerous lesser super-rich).
We should draw inspiration and lessons from health workers and campaigners in other countries. In France, after large strikes and protests by health workers last year, the right-wing Macron government conceded €8bn (£7.2bn) for pay increases, alongside many billions in wider health spending.
We must organise and mobilise in support of the NHS workers’ fight, on the streets, in our workplaces, in our trade unions and in the Labour Party. Demonstrate on 3 July!