UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Friday, 14 March 2014

We must stand up and fight Hunt on NHS Pay

Whatever the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) announced yesterday, it was unlikely to be enough to maintain the living standards of NHS workers in the face of the huge cost of living crisis. A 1% increase leaves pay well behind inflation, saps the spending power of these workers and leaves NHS staff still picking up the bill once again of a crisis not of our making. But Hunt’s kick in the teeth for NHS staff in reneging on the PRB recommendations has damaging consequences.

The majority of NHS staff will get no cost of living increase, and those that do could lose it after a year and it won’t be counted towards unsocial hours payments that many of our members rely on. The argument that 1% is unaffordable is blown out of the water not only by the NHS’s continued surplus but also by the fact that the Department of Health have said that funds are available for a 1% uplift, and most Employers have budgeted for that.

This undoubtedly turns our attention to the role of the PRB, whose relevance looks increasingly sidelined when national Governments appear to be doing what they wanted regardless of the process. Hunt’s announcement in England was promptly followed by Alex Neil’s announcement that the NHS in Scotland would not only implement the PRB’s recommendation of 1% in full, it would go further with a flat £300 increase for those below £21,000.

The PRB process was set up to avoid pay disputes and strikes by nurses and then slowly expanded to include other groups of staff, and has broadly served NHS staff well until recently. The Government must realise there are consequences for them abandoning the process as they have done.

So what should UNISON do now?

As always with UNISON our members should be at the heart of our response. Every Steward and Branch should be talking to their members about pay now, and we need to support this by quickly getting campaign materials and consultation resources out to Branches. The national union should be consulting from the standpoint that we have a whole union strategy for challenging the attacks on our members pay and stand ready to support our members if they call for industrial action.

James Anthony & Clare Williams