U.K. Ministers Defend Proposed 1% Pay Rise for Health Staff
(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. government defended its decision to recommend a 1% pay rise for National Health Service workers in England, after an angry backlash from unions and opposition parties.
Health minister Nadine Dorries told Sky News on Friday that the proposed hike is the “most we think we can afford” because there had been “huge borrowing and cost to the government” due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak exempted health care workers from a public sector pay freeze announced in November, the proposal would raise NHS salaries by little more than the current 0.7% inflation rate, and by less than government forecasts for price rises this year.
The move sparked fury among health unions after a year in which NHS hospitals have been deluged with huge numbers of critically ill Covid-19 patients. The opposition Labour Party condemned the plan, which also caused unrest within the ruling Conservative Party. Tory backbencher Roger Gale told BBC Radio on Friday that more money is needed.
“The way that this has been presented and handled has been inept,” Gale said. “That is not what I think the public wants in terms of recognition of a wholly exceptional situation.”
The 1% recommendation was made by the Department of Health and Social Care to the independent panel that reviews salaries. In its submission, published Thursday, the department said anything higher “would require reprioritization” of funding.
Trades Union Congress General Secretary Frances O’Grady called the pay offer an “insulting way” to reward the dedication of healthcare workers, while the British Medical Association said the pay rise was a “kick in the teeth” for the NHS workforce, which had “literally kept this country alive for the past 10 months.”
Dr Ami Jones, an intensive care consultant with the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, agreed that the pay offer is an insult, telling Bloomberg Radio it’s “a real slap in the face” not just for workers, but also hospital porters and cleaners.
Dorries insisted on Friday that NHS workers had been prioritized for a pay rise while other public sector workers were facing a pay freeze.
Sunak’s pay freeze applied to about 1.3 million of the country’s 5.5 million public sector workers, after exemptions for health care workers and those on low pay.
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