Published: 10:43, 01 April 2021
| Updated: 20:55, 01 April 2021
Hospital staff came together today to protest against the government's pay offer for NHS workers.
Employees and union members held a demonstration at Medway Maritime Hospital against the "derisory" proposal to increase salaries by 1%.
Hospital staff and campaigners protest against NHS staff pay increase
Unison led the action at the hospital in Gillingham as part of a national movement protesting against the offer they say will leave many staff worse off.
Labour and unions say the 1% offer will in effect lead to a real terms pay cut with the Office for Budget Responsibility predicting an increase of 1.7% to the consumer price index over the coming year.
With frontline workers throughout the NHS facing the greatest daily risks and exposure to Covid during the pandemic, the offer has also been dismissed as unacceptable.
Andrew Travers, branch secretary of Unison Medway Health, said: "Today is a day of action called by Unison to allow NHS staff to express their disgust and contempt they feel towards the government's derisory 1% pay offer.
"NHS staff have seen their pay devalue by about 20% since 2010 when the Conservatives came to power so it is part of the network of protests."
The demonstration took place at the main gates of the hospital in Windmill Road, Gillingham from 1.30pm.
Speaking at the protest, Mr Travers added: "We know that NHS staff are not happy with the pay offer. One percent is way below what it should be. NHS pay has been devalued by about 20 percent since 1910, so all across the county today, it's not just us, all across the country small groups and large groups gathered together to protest what we see as an insult.
"They deserve far more - having worked through the pandemic I think we're entitled to expect more than 1%. They say that there's not the money there but perhaps they should prioritise the money differently,
"They've spent billions and billions on track and trace which was a complete waste of money and they spend billions and billions on nuclear weapons which are never going to be used - that can only be used with the permission of the Americans anyway - so the money is out there, it's just they need to think more about where they're going to prioritise it.
"It's a matter of choices and their choice is not to pay NHS workers."
"The government have been clapping for us, praising us to the high heavens - Boris Johnson himself - but when it comes to the crunch all they can give us is one percent."
Unison member Steve Wilkins added: "It's ridiculous - they said all these wonderful things about health service workers and given them the impression they were going to give them a decent pay increase and then didn't.
"When you look at the money they've actually spent - £20 billion on a test and trace system that doesn't work. They've been handing out money to businesses - they've wasted huge amounts of money, given to all sorts of people who appear to have connections to the Tory party but haven't delivered.
"Then they're talking about a massive increase on defence spending. It's a matter of choices and their choice is not to pay NHS workers.
"The danger is were going to lose a lot of people."
Labour say a newly qualified nurse on a starting salary of £24,907 will face a real terms cut of £174 in light of the 1% rise.
But with many areas ramping up council tax and personal tax allowances frozen this could equate to £307 by 2023.
A government review committee into NHS pay is set to meet next month with many Tory MPs reportedly expecting the 1% offer to be revisited.
Opposition health spokesman and deputy leader of the Labour group at Medway Council, Cllr Teresa Murray said: "We support the claim for NHS staff to be paid more and believe the 1% offer was derisory and hypocritical given the government’s support for clapping for carers.
"In reality NHS staff pay has fallen behind under the Conservatives. Labour would support the recommendation from the independent review board which is although in place is being ignored by the government.
"Today is a day of action to allow NHS staff to express their disgust and contempt they feel towards the government's derisory 1% pay offer..."
"We are particularly concerned for our local hospital as they strive to improve following poor CQC reports as well as the Covid challenges because the chief executive is leaving and that carries the potential for instability and may impact on recruitment when there are still too many agency staff."
Unison say it is ramping up its campaign for a "fair and reasonable pay rise" proposing that had the government agreed to an increase of £2,000 across the NHS, all workers would have received an extra £38.46 a week in their pay packets.
But the 1% pay increase put forward by the government is yet to be agreed meaning staff are unlikely to see any increase until later in 2021 after a year of battling Covid-19.
Unions are calling for people to show their support for the NHS by putting colourful posters in their windows and writing to MPs opposing the plans.
“Every day that passes without a pay rise is another day NHS staff are being told they aren’t valued by our politicians,” said Unison head of health Sara Gorton.
“So, from 1 April we’ll not only be messaging our MPs in our thousands, we’ll be keeping track of every day that passes without an increase and every penny that’s being kept out of NHS workers’ pockets.
“With inboxes full of messages from the public and health workers, and all of us tracking MPs’ inaction, we can turn up the pressure on our politicians to stop the delays and secure a proper pay rise that shows NHS staff they are truly appreciated.”
A spokesman for Medway NHS Foundation Trust said: “The issue of staff pay is a matter of discussion between the government, the national NHS and recognised trade unions."
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are incredibly grateful to staff across the health sector who are working tirelessly on the frontline of this pandemic. Over one million NHS staff continue to benefit from multi-year pay deals agreed with trade unions, which have delivered a pay rise of over 12% for newly qualified nurses and will increase junior doctors’ pay scales by 8.2%.
“Pay rises in the rest of the public sector will be paused this year due to the challenging economic environment, but we will continue to provide pay rises for NHS workers, on top investment in professional development and increased recruitment. That’s with record numbers of doctors and nurses working in our NHS, and with nursing university applications up by over a third.”