Health: ‘The government treats us like April fools’ on pay

Pay dominated proceedings at health conference, today, with the upcoming UNISON consultation on pay top of the agenda

Business at health conference turned to pay on Tuesday morning.

First, conference discussed an emergency motion on NHS pay 2024-25. The motion pointed out that once again, the government has failed to conduct annual pay reviews in a timely fashion.

Moving the motion, James Anthony of the SGE said: “Like clockwork, in April, everything goes up. Bills council tax, everything. Except, like clockwork, NHS pay.

“Once again the government treats us like April fools.”

He highlighted that Band two members are now paid just one penny above the minimum wage: “A whacking 55p below the real living wage.”

The motion noted the health SGE’s decision to launch a pro-active formal consultation in England to gauge the strength of feeling of members.

James told delegates: “This consultation is the most important thing we’re going to do when we come back from conference – so let’s go back and talk about pay.”

Gillian Hobson from the North West region followed, telling delegates: “This year we need to send a clear message: let nothing go. Detriment is not on the table and we will not accept damage to any of our Ts & Cs.

“No more delays, a proper pay rise, proper rebanding, a shorter working week. Let nothing go.”

Once bitten twice shy – the fight for pay parity

Continuing on the theme of government inaction, conference heard that health workers in Northern Ireland have still not received the 2023 Agenda for Change pay award.

Stephanie Greenwood, moving a motion on the fight for pay parity for Northern Ireland region, asked her NI regional colleagues to stand from their seats in the hall.

Referencing the continued strike action across Northern Ireland health over the last year, she said: “These are some of the individuals who led thousands of colleagues out of their workplaces day after day in bitter conditions. Look them in the eye and support them.”

She warned delegates, “Never again leave anyone behind,” asking conference to vote to ensure that, in future pay rounds, this scenario will not be repeated and that parity for Northern Ireland is built into future negotiations.

The NHS must become a Real Living Wage Employer

The final motion of the morning saw conference call for the NHS to become a real living wage employer.

Maria Demitri moved the motion for North West Anglia Hospitals. She said: “The NHS in England employs 1.7m people, it is one of the worlds biggest employers.”

The motion read that more and more low paid staff in the NHS are earning a wage that is less than the Real Living Wage of £12.00 an hour. Ms Demitri also noted that many of those employees are paid only a penny more than the minimum wage, if they are on band 2.

She said: “Many of these workers increasingly leaving the NHS because they can earn more elsewhere.”

She argued it used to be difficult to get a job in many jobs in the NHS, from healthcare assistant, administrator, porter to catering assistant. But, because of chronic low pay there are now thousands of vacancies in these roles across the NHS as workers search elsewhere for higher paid jobs in supermarkets and call centres.