Collision looms over NHS pay offer

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander
Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander
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The Government is on a collision course with health workers after being accused of “taking a scalpel” to their pay by refusing to give an across the board rise.

Increases of one per cent will be given to some staff in the NHS, as well as to members of the armed forces, doctors and dentists, senior civil servants, prison officers and the judiciary.

But an estimated 600,000 health workers will only receive their normal incremental pay rise rather than the one per cent, which had been recommended by a pay review body, while 400 “very senior managers” in the NHS will not receive the one per cent increase.

The move means that health workers face a fourth year of below-inflation increases, sparking anger and warnings of strikes.

Unite said it will consult its 100,000 NHS members about the possibility of industrial action, while Unison and the GMB refused to rule out similar moves.

Unison accused the coalition of taking a scalpel to the pay review report and of “showing contempt” for NHS workers, adding that 70 per cent of nurses will receive no pay rise this year.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, said: “We need to continue with public sector pay restraint in order to put the nation’s finances back on a sustainable footing.

“We are delivering on our commitment to a one per cent pay rise for all except some of the most senior public sector workers.”

The Government said the pay policy in the NHS would save over £200m in 2014/15 and over £400m in 2015/16.

The Treasury said: “The public sector pay bill makes up over half of departmental resource spending, therefore continued pay restraint remains central to the Government’s deficit reduction strategy.

“Public sector pay restraint has already helped protect thousands of jobs and frontline services.”

Unison’s national officer Christina McAnea said: “The Government has shown complete contempt for the NHS, contempt for staff and contempt for patients and will pay the price at the ballot box.

“Even a straight one per cent increase would be nowhere near enough to meet the massive cost of living increases that NHS staff have had to cope with since 2010.

“Staff are on average, 10 per cent worse off than when the coalition came to power.”

Rehana Azam, national officer of the GMB, said:“GMB members will not stand aside whilst the Government makes such direct attacks on their pay and conditions.

“GMB will immediately begin making arrangements to consult members who will be asked to vote in a consultative ballot to decide the next steps in this dispute.”

Prime Minister David Cameron said in Israel: “It is good that it is increasing and not frozen but it is right to take those difficult decisions because it means we can keep more people employed, we can keep more people in work and make sure we spend money on vital treatments, on hospitals, on delivering services, which is what patients so badly want.”

His official spokesman said that Mr Cameron would oppose any industrial action and urged the unions to “talk not strike”.

Jeremy Hunt said a one per cent rise for all staff, on top of automatic incremental increases, was “unaffordable” and would risk the quality of patient care.

The same approach will be taken in 2015/16, he said.

The Government also warned that contributions to public sector pensions were likely to rise to meet a £1bn a year shortfall despite a spate of reforms.