This week’s pay offer for NHS staff in England has brought two issues into sharp focus.
It proves just how effective last year’s strikes in the health service really were.
And it also shows the complete disregard this government has for people working in the NHS.
Since the government rejected the independent pay review body’s recommendation for a 1% pay rise for NHS staff last March, Jeremy Hunt has consistently maintained the Tory line that a better offer would not be made.
But with the general election fast approaching and the NHS now at the top of the public’s election priority list, the government clearly decided that it could no longer refuse to negotiate with the health unions.
And not before time. NHS workers have seen their pay frozen or held down for the past five years. On average, each person has lost around 10% from the value of their pay packet under this government.
On top of this, a third of NHS staff get less than the Chancellor’s low pay threshold of £21,000 a year, while a fifth are forced to take second jobs to make ends meet.
The new proposals are by no means perfect, but they would deliver pay rises of between 2.2% and 5.6% to more than 250,000 of the lowest paid workers in the NHS. There are also some specific proposals for our ambulance members.
Of course we would have liked more, but believing this is the best that we could achieve through negotiations, it’s now over to members.
The final decision on whether to accept or reject the proposals is up to them. If they choose to reject the offer, we will back them all the way with further industrial action in the spring.
We showed this week that our actions were strong enough to get the government to the negotiating table. No wonder the Tories are so keen to make it almost impossible for public sector workers to go on strike should they form the next government.