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Government Must Honour 2.1% NHS Staff Pay Rise Signed Into Law And Ditch 1% Offer, Say Labour

Labour are calling for the government to increase their pay offer to nurses after a backlash against the planned 1% rise (Alamy)

4 min read

Labour are calling on the government to honour the 2.1% pay rise for NHS workers they legislated for, amid a backlash over plans give nurses just a 1% salary increase.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said Conservative MPs had already voted for the higher figure, which is “the law of the land” and should be the basis for pay negotiations.

It comes after the Royal College of Nursing laid the groundwork for strike action over the 1% recommendation to the NHS pay review body, which ministers have said is the “most we can afford”.

On the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show this morning Ashworth held up some papers and said: "This document is the NHS long-term spending plan - it promised a 2.1% increase for NHS staff.

"Not only was it promised, it was budgeted for and it was legislated for - this is the law of the land.

"Tory MPs voted for 2.1%. The government budgeted for 2.1% and it was passed in legislation because the spending plans for the NHS came to the House of Commons and it went through the Commons - every Tory MP voted for 2.1% in January last year.

"That should be the basis for which negotiations and discussions are now entered into with the trade unions.”

His Labour frontbench colleague Lisa Nandy said it was "reprehensible" for ministers not to recommend putting NHS pay up by more than 1%.

The shadow foreign secretary told Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday: "The government, to be clear, is not planning a pay rise.

"That is a real-terms pay cut because it doesn't keep up with inflation and for nurses to be offered a pay cut is just reprehensible in our view.

"In the NHS long-term plan, the government budgeted for a 2.1% pay rise – that is what nurses were promised and last year they legislated for that in order to give nurses a cast-iron guarantee that after years of seeing their real-terms pay fall the government would finally reverse that decision and start to see their pay increase.”

But asked it he believes nurses deserve more than a 1% pay rise, education secretary Gavin Williamson said: ”What we are having to deal with is an incredibly challenging economic situation where we have put forward a proposal.

"We've put forward what we believe we can afford and is part of a process and that was what will be looked at.

"But really, our focus is on making sure we recover from this pandemic."

Speaking to Sky News he said "difficult economic challenges" were behind the 1% recommendation, saying: "The government has at every stage been clear of our commitment to the NHS.

"Over a million NHS staff are going to be receiving pay increases over and above that. But, also, we are facing difficult economic challenges.

"We're facing almost three-quarters of a million people who are unemployed and we have in the context of that decided to exempt the NHS from the public sector pay freeze, which is the only part of the public sector that has been exempted from that."

Ministers are facing fresh warnings of an “exodus of experienced staff” over the row from the Unite union, which has more than 100,000 members in the health service.

And they said such a low pay increase will lead to a shortage of professionals to carry out vital operations, and is liaising with other health unions about next steps, including possible industrial action.

Assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: "The NHS will be a pale shadow of the great Covid-fighting health service we know and love in five years' time, if the insulting 1% pay recommendation is not dramatically revised upwards by ministers.”

This was echoed by Dr Nikita Kanini, the NHS medical director for primary care, who told Times Radio she is worried that the "incredible" NHS nurses who have "been front and centre of this pandemic" will leave the profession.

She said they may go "partly because of concerns around pay - but partly because of exhaustion" and "so it's really important that our staff get the support and the recognition they need”.

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