The Westminster government’s refusal to properly invest in pay in the NHS shows that it is not taking the problems in the service seriously, UNISON said today, after an indicative industrial action ballot on pay in the health service in England saw a majority willing to take industrial action on the issue.
The ballot concerned the government’s 3% pay deal for 2021, which has already been wiped out by inflation and large increases in the cost of living.
UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “NHS staff feel let down by the below-inflation pay rise at a time when the cost of living is rocketing. This will only fuel the staffing crisis, as many more will leave for better-paid jobs elsewhere.
“The focus now rightly turns to the next pay round – the government must ensure staff are properly supported and rewarded.”
With the next NHS pay award due in less than four months, UNISON said that the ballot should be a wake-up call to government. The union will make it absolutely clear to ministers that, unless they act, the numbers of NHS staff in England who feel they have no option but to take industrial action will only grow.
The consultative ballot did not bring responses from enough members to be confident that a formal ballot would meet the legal threshold to take action.
But among those who did take part, 77% said they would have been willing to take sustained industrial action to try to improve this year’s pay award.
Not only has inflation already wiped out the 3% settlement, pay will decrease further when the government’s national insurance hike takes effect in April 2022.
UNISON is already working on making the strongest possible case for next year’s NHS pay rise, and is talking to all the other health unions about how this can be done together.
The government has finally begun the process for requesting recommendations on the NHS pay rise for 2022-23. But its delays mean it is already evident that the 2022 pay rise will not be paid on time. And the government has emphasised that it will have to come from within existing funding.
The union’s pay campaigning work continues and it will soon be asking members for input on plans for 2022.