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NHS officials warn of industrial unrest over expected 3% wage increase | NHS

Written by Javed Iqbal

Ministers are likely to face a new outbreak of industrial unrest if, as expected, the government accepts a wage increase well below inflation per capita. NHS workers, unions and trade unions have warned.

“Even if there are no strikes in connection with a wage offer of around the expected level of 3%, some said that another cut in real wages combined with staff shortages and the legacy of Covid could simply lead to an emigration of workers, with an official calling the situation” a perfect storm for the NHS “.

While the NHS Pay Review Body’s (PRB) final recommendation is not yet known, sources have said the offer to staff in the UK is likely to be around 3%. Prices in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are decided by decentralized governments.

Its recommendation has already been submitted to the government, but not yet approved or published. While some sources predict that the news may come as early as next week, last year came first in the second half of July.

Ministers made it clear in their written evidence to the PRB earlier this year that they planned to allocate NHS staff in England 3% and that any major figures would be prohibitive.

There was “extremely limited room for any further investment in pay” beyond that because the NHS’s budget had been set to prioritize tackling the massive backlog of people waiting for planned hospital treatment, which is now at 6.5 million.

In a private speech, coalition officials from 13 unions, representative groups and trade unions involved in negotiating salaries for NHS staff employed on “agenda for change” terms – almost all except doctors and dentists – said strike seemed very possible when inflation runs at 9%.

“There is real anger among members over the impact of inflation,” an official said. “It’s not just about this year – it’s also the cumulative effect of real wage cuts since 2010. A strike is a pretty big leap, but one could easily see how it would happen.”

An official from another body said: “If the recommendation is as we expect it, we certainly would not be happy. One can not say for sure, but one would think that we would try to vote the members on action.”

If there were strikes, they are more likely to come from smaller, single-professional organizations, where it is easier to get the necessary support in a vote than for larger health unions like Unite and GMB, which represent a range of roles.

But several sources said the malaise was much deeper, and even if there was no formal action, a rise in wages below inflation could simply stop a significant number of people, exacerbating staff shortages.

“It’s not just about the pay rise, it’s about what it would represent given how hard people have worked, especially with Covid,” said another official.

“They have been flat, and some may just decide to take their skills elsewhere. It takes time to train new staff, and Brexit means we do not have people from abroad. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s a bit of a perfect storm right now. “

Another official in the professional body said that the morale among the members was “on the bottom”. They said: “They still feel completely underestimated, and if they then have to take what is in fact a pay cut, you can imagine what it will do. Let’s just say it’s going to be some interesting months.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “NHS staff received a 3% pay rise last year, which increased nurses’ pay by £ 1,000 on average despite a pay rise in the public sector and we are giving NHS staff another pay rise this year.

“No decisions have been made and we will carefully consider the recommendations of the independent payroll assessment bodies.”

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Javed Iqbal

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