The pay of nurses and other NHS staff in England will have fallen in real terms by more than 7% since 2010, even if they accept the government’s latest offer, according to a new analysis that will fuel growing anger over wage agreements in the public sector.
Figures produced by the TUC show that the salaries of nurses, community nurses, medical secretaries, speech therapists, physiotherapists, paramedics and radiologists will have fallen from 7.3% to 7.6% in real terms in just a little bit. more than a decade, even after factoring in the 3% increase offered last week.
The Royal College of Nursing, which represents 450,000 nurses, is due to consult its members next month for their opinion on the offer and, if they are overwhelmingly negative, could take an “indicative vote”, opening up the possibility of some form of action. A senior RCN source said that while this was a remote possibility, it was “not completely ruled out”.
The 3% offer for NHS workers was an improvement on the original figure of just 1% submitted by ministers to the NHS salary review body. But it has always caused the consternation of many workers who believe their role in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic deserves more.
Last week, unions representing teachers also reacted with fury after the announcement of the pay freeze for most of their members, while the Police Federation of England and Wales said it did not had more confidence in the Minister of the Interior, Priti Patel, after announcing their salary would also be frozen.
The issue of public sector remuneration is now becoming a political puzzle for the government, as ministers face the enormous costs of the pandemic and seek savings in departmental budgets.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady told the Observer: “It’s easy to understand the anger of NHS staff when you see what has been done to their pay. It’s not just about the 3% – it’s how their wages have been withheld year after year.
“All of our key workers deserve a decent standard of living for their families. But too often their hard work doesn’t pay off. And after the most difficult year of their professional life, they deserve better.
“The Prime Minister must keep his promise to ‘build back fairer’ with fair wages for all key workers. It is not just a question of evaluating them correctly. The increased expenses resulting from the salary increases will help our businesses and shopping streets to recover faster. It is the fuel in the tank that our economy needs.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) pointed out last week how the decision on teacher pay reverses previous promises by ministers and risked hurting recruitment into the profession. The IFS said: ‘In the last election the Conservative Party manifesto pledged to raise starting salaries for teachers in England to £ 30,000 per year by September 2022.
‘However, to ease the pressure on school budgets and public finances, the government has now announced a freeze on teacher pay levels in England for September 2021 and pushed back starting salaries from £ 30,000 until September 2023.
“The level of teachers’ remuneration is important. It plays a big role in determining the recruitment and retention pressures schools face. With the cost of hiring teachers accounting for more than half of school expenses, changing salary levels also have a big impact on the overall resource pressures facing schools. And it is a key determinant of the material standard of living of over 500,000 teachers in England.
Geoff Barton, Secretary General of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “After a year in which teachers and leaders have worked hard to manage a battery of Covid control measures, as well that to assess students following the government’s decision to cancel exams, the decision to implement a salary freeze is an absolute insult.