As Solidarity went to press on 27 January, news of a deal on NHS pay had just been announced.
Unison, Unite, GMB and the Royal College of Midwives have all confirmed they have suspended strikes planned for Thursday 29 January to consult members on an offer from the government.
A GMB official said the offer included “the implementation of the 1% pay rise for all NHS staff from April 2015 plus some further improvements for the lowest paid NHS staff.”
The details are unclear. However initial publicity suggested that it includes:
• A consolidated 1% payment for all staff up to Band 8B from April 2015,
• An additional consolidated £200 payment for lower paid staff (pay points 3-8),
• The first point on the pay scale to be abolished and the second raised to £15,100,
• A commitment from the government to the NHS Pay Review Body and that the Body will continue to make future recommendations on pay uplift for NHS staff in 2016-17.
It is unclear if the offer is solely for next year (2015-16). If so it would leave NHS staff with a pay freeze for this year and a below inflation one for next year.
There is also indication that this deal comes with commitment to a wider ranging review in 2016 of Agenda for Change, which could signal government attacks on pay increments, unsociable hours payments and other terms and conditions.
Unison head of health and the unions’ lead negotiator, Christina McAnea said “This isn’t a great offer but it addresses some of the key concerns unions have about low pay in the NHS.” However Unison’s own publicity about the strike was not demanding more than that the government implement the NHS Pay Review Body recommendation of a 1% rise for 2014-15.
NHS pay has fallen in real terms by 15% in five years, and increasing outsourcing means large sections of NHS cleaners, caterers, porters and administrative staff are not paid anywhere near a living wage. A 1% increase does not solve this.
It is clear to all that the problems within the National Health Service go much deeper than insufficient pay.
There are currently too many crises going on in the NHS. A funding crisis, a bed crisis, a staffing crisis. The demands over pay were linked to these issues.
We must have political demands to go alongside the demand for a 1% pay rise, even if it has been won — an end to the costly and ineffective healthcare market; the cancellation of PFI debt; a recruitment drive in our hospitals; and better funding for community services.