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Wednesday 11 January 2023

MiP and 13 other NHS unions announce boycott of NHS Pay Review Body while industrial action is ongoing

By MiP
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MiP and 13 other NHS unions announce they will not submit evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body for the 2023 pay round while industrial action is ongoing. A loss of faith in the process has been driven by the Government’s calculated framing of the PRB as the ultimate arbiter of NHS pay – which is simply not true.

The Government have so far refused to negotiate with unions on NHS pay for 2022 as they accepted the PRB’s recommendation in full and consider the matter closed. Ministers have cited the ‘independence’ of the PRB, claiming trade unions and staff have an equal say as government in the evidence process. This, however, is simply untrue.

Before the PRB even starts its work, the Government sets out what it deems ‘affordable’ – restricting the PRB from making a truly impartial recommendation based solely on the evidence it receives. Its recommendations have never deviated more than 2 percentage points from the figure the government provides it with.

Ministers are also not obliged to accept the NHS PRB’s recommendations. For example, they were rejected in 2014 by the Health Secretary at the time Jeremy Hunt.

MiP Chief Executive Jon Restell says this has led MiP and other health unions to refrain from submitting evidence for 2023 to prevent the Government from ‘absolving themselves of any responsibility to set NHS pay fairly’. He goes on to say:

“Ministers are hiding behind the PRB. The PRB give their recommendations on pay based on the economic criteria they’ve been given by Government. This means any recommendation is never truly impartial as it has to reflect whatever the Government decide is affordable to them. Nor does it allow the PRB to assess properly what pay rises the NHS truly needs to recruit and retain staff.’

“But what has made the process untenable is the Government refusing to meaningfully negotiate with unions whose members have voted for industrial action due to the existence of the PRB. Ultimately, it is the Government who set pay for NHS staff – no one else.

“We welcome the government engaging more positively on pay during talks with unions this week. However, let’s be clear that meaningful discussions which could resolve this dispute are yet to take place.

“Action on pay, both in last year’s pay round and for the next financial year, is urgently needed. Managers are fighting a losing battle as they try to recruit and keep essential staff. Meaningful pay rises for staff would help enormously. Managers also need to give teams hope for future investment.”

MiP will still submit evidence to the separate Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB) which covers very senior and executive senior managers working in the NHS who are not involved in this dispute.

MiP will also still survey their members covered by the NHS PRB and put forward the case for improved pay and conditions in order to tackle the current workforce crisis the NHS is facing.

Rather than submitting this evidence to the PRB, MiP alongside all other NHS unions will put this evidence directly to the Government. Jon Restell says this is to ‘ensure the Government can’t hide from their responsibilities in the NHS’.

“No more excuses. It’s time the Government either negotiate on NHS pay directly with unions or come clean with the public that it is the Government who are cutting the pay of public sector workers”.

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