1% pay offer is an insult to NHS staff who have given everything in the fight against Covid
Warm words and pats on the head will not cut it. This government must change course and deliver a just pay offer for our NHS workers.
This Wednesday, I am sponsoring a Westminster Hall Debate on NHS pay. I do so in response to a government intent on ignoring the very people who have kept us safe, assisted the survival of many, cared for our vulnerable and held the hands of our dying.
NHS staff are often referred to as heroes by a loving and very grateful public. Speak to any one of the 1.4million that staff our nation’s most prized, beloved asset and you soon understand that no such hero complex exists. Instead, they all exhibit a similar compassion for the people and communities they serve that underpins their unwavering commitment to public service.
How terrified we all were twelve months ago when this virus first emerged on these shores. Terrified of the complete unknown. NHS staff were not afforded the luxury of watching this nightmare unfold as passive observers. They were the first to step into that unknown.
They held the hands of loved ones moving on from this life while relatives were confined to their home
Let us not forget the brave women and men that took up this fight in the hour of our greatest need and did so on the back of a punishing decade of pay restraint amounting to pay cuts, needless reorganisations, and declining morale. They did, like every year before it, wrack up countless unpaid hours. They held the hands of loved ones moving on from this life while relatives were confined to their home. For some, they too paid the ultimate sacrifice with their life.
The recent pay offer of 1% is an insult to a group of people who have given everything to help us overcome the biggest public health emergency and peacetime crisis in our nation’s history. Many are hopeful that our way of life may soon return to some level of normality. Yet this is only fathomable because these same people, who are out there right now as I write this article, are injecting doses into the arms of millions.
The Conservative government made NHS staff pay for the last economic crisis. Despite the rebranding, the new kids on the block Boris and Rishi, intend to continue their predecessors’ legacy. This may well be a new decade yet the message coming from this government to NHS workers is this - ‘brace yourselves for more of the same’.
Government know they are on the losing side of this argument. The public are angry at a paltry offer they see as an injustice to the people they clapped on a Thursday evening. They are angry that those moments of national solidarity, shared by Ministers, could well turn into a moment of national shame.
My message is this – drop the spin on NHS pay and change course. Cash term increases to pay do not amount to real term increases. Rather than lecture us on the unaffordability of a just pay offer, deliver for the very people that deliver for us.
A pay increase is good economics and is affordable. Public sector workers pay taxes, they spend money in our communities and a happier workforce is a likely retained workforce – reducing the cost to employ agency workers across the Service. Government naturally has many spending priorities, but those priorities are completely skewed if a fairer, longer term pay settlement for NHS staff is not one of them.
Warm words and pats on the head will not cut it. Nor will last year’s photo ops on the steps of No.10 and No.11 Downing Street every Thursday evening. The demands we place on NHS workers are hard yet the demands they place on us politicians are rather simple. Through their deeds and actions, this government can still change course.
Paula Barker is the Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree.