Union Calls For Privately Employed NHS Workers To Receive Same Pay Rates As NHS Workers

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A 3% Pay-Rise For NHS Employees 

In March of 2021 the government announced a 1% raise for NHS workers after their hard work during the pandemic, stating that a raise of this size would be “affordable” for workers in spite of the pandemic’s effect on the economy and the extra stress that NHS workers have been put under over the course of 2020. 

The 1% pay-rise proposal was met with heavy criticism and threat of a nurse’s strike, which has resulted in a new figure of a 3% raise released in July 2021.

 This figure was reached on the recommendations of the independent NHS Pay Review Body and the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration, but is still criticised by unions as far too low, with Justin Madders, the shadow Health minister telling The Guardian that after the government’s “hypocrisy applauding NHS workers while trying to cut their pay, the government must make our NHS and key workers feel supported and valued after all they have done for us.”

In July it was reported that nurses may still strike over this number, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) had previously called for a 12.5% rise for nurses and threatens more union action.

Pat Cullen, the acting general secretary of the RCN has told the guardian that “the profession will not take this lying down,” and that the RCN would be “consulting our members on what action they would like to take next.”

The British Medical Association (BMA), which represents doctors, have said the pay rise was disappointing and that junior doctors and some GPs could miss out on it altogether, meanwhile consultants, who were hoping for a 5% raise are threatening to no longer take on paid or unpaid overtime in retaliation. 

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A Union’s Call To Action

Now that news of the 3% rise has spread, UNISON, one of the UK’s largest trade unions with 1.3 million members, is calling for private firms and subsidiary companies owned by individual NHS trusts to increase hourly pay to at least match the new NHS pay rates. 

In an article posted by UNISON, the union highlights the losses that privately employed NHS workers will face if they are not treated to the same pay-rise for the work that they do, stating that any difference in pay between privately employed, or outsourced NHS employees, will cause a divide between staff. UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea has been quoted: 

The Prime Minister must abandon any thought of 1% when he finally makes his long overdue announcement on NHS pay. He should ensure staff get a decent rise, with funding extended to cover all health workers. No-one should be left behind. People working on the same wards, doing the same jobs as their colleagues shouldn’t be paid substantially less.”

The calls by UNISON don’t just follow the news of the pay-rise, but is backed by a survey the company conducted among its members displaying concerning numbers when it comes to the pay gap between NHS employees and those outsourced to do the same work.

According to UNISON only 14% of the participants receive the same pay and benefits as their NHS colleagues, and 38% of them only get a minimum wage of £8.91 an hour compared to the lowest hourly rate within the NHS, £9.21 an hour.

In their survey they also discovered that of the respondents, 51% admitted that they had to ask for financial support over the pandemic despite working through lockdowns and in the conditions that they were in. 25% of them turned to friends and family for support, whereas others used loans, sold possessions or made new Universal Credit claims to keep afloat. 

What UNISON wants 

With the 3% pay-rise for NHS workers, UNISON predicts that the already obvious differences between staff employed by the NHS and those who have been employed for the NHS through private firms will grow too large to ignore, and is calling for three changes to the way things are now: 

They want:

  • All staff providing health services to be employed directly by the NHS, or at least on the same pay and contracts as those who are.
  • Ministers ensuring any pay rise is fully funded so it covers staff working for private contractors on NHS premises.
  • Trusts only awarding contracts to private firms agreeing to match NHS pay rates, and other benefits, such as sick pay and pensions.

After the effort that these staff have put in to continue working throughout the pandemic, it is no wonder that demands are being made now to ensure that their needs are being met and their work is respected. After a year of clapping for the NHS, the government is being called to act on the gestures they have been promoting through the pandemic and to put their money where their mouth is. 

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Article written by Maisie Violet Wicks, BA Hons. Have something to add? Contact newsdesk@privatepracticehub.co.uk