Unions call for NHS pay rise

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Since 2010 pay has been frozen and then capped at rises of 1% for public sector workers

Fourteen workers' unions have joined forces to call for a 3.9% pay rise for NHS staff.

The group have also demanded an extra £800 to make up for lost earning power during the government's austerity measures.

Since 2010 pay has been frozen and then rises capped at 1% for public sector workers. However, last week the government announced that it will lift the 1% cap on public sector pay rises for certain sectors. The police will receive an extra 2% next year while prison officers will get 1.7%

Sara Gorton, head of health at UNISON, which co-ordinated the letter from the unions to chancellor Philip Hammond, wrote that health workers have gone without a pay rise for too long. “Their wages continue to fall behind inflation as food, fuel bills, housing and transport costs rise,” she said. “NHS staff and their families need a pay award that stops the rot and starts to restore some of the earnings that have been missed out on.”

Royal College of Nursing general secretary Janet Davies told the BBC that it is important the money to pay for the rise is found by the Treasury rather than taken from the NHS budget. "When ministers hold pay down it drives too many nurses out of the NHS," she said.

A government spokeswoman told the BBC that the government would ensure the package offered to NHS staff is fair. "Public sector workers, including NHS staff, do a fantastic job, and the government is committed to ensuring they can continue to deliver world-class public services,” they said. "The government will continue to ensure that the overall package is fair while also being affordable to taxpayers as a whole."

They added that the official pay review bodies would be "set out in due course".

Hammond told ITV earlier this week that he hopes to strike a balance when it comes to pay for public sector workers. "What I've said repeatedly is that we always seek to strike the right balance for fairness to our public sector workers delivering vital services and fairness to the taxpayers," he said. "We keep that balance under constant review. All I will say is that we constantly review it and will continue to do so."

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents health organisations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said the pay cap had been affecting staff. "We have made clear that we do not believe the 1% pay cap is sustainable and that our members have mounting concern about both recruitment and retention of vital frontline staff," he said. "Staff morale is also a serious issue, and while pay is by no means the only or even the critical issue, it is clearly important that those who deliver care feel valued and adequately rewarded. For many of our members the workforce is now their number one challenge.

“But we have also made it clear that any attempt by the government to make the Service meet the cost of any pay increase would be a disaster – the pressures on NHS organisations are unprecedented and funding has been at historically low levels."

Dickson added that he anticipated public support for the pay rise. “Current plans for funding health and care services over the next two years are already unrealistic and any further cost on the pay bill must be matched with additional funds," he said. "We recognise that extra money for healthcare has to come from somewhere, but we believe there would be public support for making this a priority.”

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