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Friday 30 July 2021

MiP members vote on NHS pay in England

By MiP

English currency in notes and coins

MiP’s national committee has urged MiP members to have their say on this year’s NHS pay round in England and vote in the UNISON online ballot which opens today. It is vital to have a high turnout in the ballot to show that pay is a strategically important issue for the NHS and MiP’s members, whichever way they choose to vote.

Not an offer

The government will implement an award of 3%, as recommended by the NHS Pay Review Body. It will be backdated to 1 April and apply to all NHS staff in England covered by Agenda for Change. This is not an offer, nor has it been negotiated with health unions. It will be imposed with or without the consent of members. UNISON’s ballot asks members whether they accept the outcome or wish to challenge it by taking industrial action up to and including strike action.

Members decide what happens next

The committee considered the outcome of the pay round in England carefully at a special meeting on 26 July 2021. It felt strongly that members must decide what happens next. The committee discussed several factors for members to consider, and it concluded that the only way to shift the government’s position was by taking industrial action. It would be irresponsible to ask members to register a protest without a commitment to act.

Disappointing award that treads water

The committee agreed that 3% was better than expected, given the government's evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body recommending an insulting 1%. This movement by the government followed a strong public and political campaign by health unions working together. But the award of 3% was still disappointing and fell short of the ‘significant’ increase MiP members called for in their own evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body.

In effect NHS pay will tread water. Inflation is running at 2.5% (CPI) and 3.9% (RPI). Average earnings in the wider economy are growing at between 3.2% and 4.4%. Even after this award, NHS salaries are expected to have fallen by 7% in real terms since 2010.

The government could have made different decisions. Higher awards have been made elsewhere in the UK, with the Scottish government finding 4% for NHS pay this year.

NHS pay needs sustained investment

MiP members, mostly senior NHS managers, have made it crystal clear that a significant pay rise is important to overcome staff shortages and retain exhausted staff. This award has come very late in the day for managers who need good news to help encourage staff to stay. The committee believes that, whatever happens this year, NHS pay will still require sustained investment over the next three years, and therefore this must be a key factor in the government's Spending Review in the autumn.

Public sector pay pause is wrong

The committee is opposed to the government’s public sector pay policy. In arguing for sustained investment in NHS pay, MiP says this should not be at the expense of other groups. All public services play an important part in the determinants of health and everyone delivering them deserves fair pay. Social care workers deserve a better deal, and we are disappointed that the government has again delayed action on properly funding social care.

Low pay

It is disappointing that this award falls below the Living Wage Foundation rates of pay. While opposed to capping pay awards, most MiP members have always backed weighting awards for lower paid colleagues. In recent MiP surveys, members said strongly that they are concerned about the impact of COVID-19 economic upheaval on colleagues in lower pay bands, including concerns for staff they directly line manage.

Funding the award

The award should be fully funded, as NHS pay always is, so the costs of paying the rise do not come out of other NHS budgets. For now, about a third of the award will be unfunded.

Senior staff not capped

Unlike the deal in Scotland, the awards in England will not be capped for higher AfC bands. MiP opposed this approach in Scotland and in earlier pay settlements in England.

Government gets it wrong on executive pay

But although this approach was not taken with the AfC pay decision, the government has said that chief executives and directors should get nothing. The committee said this was wrong and a big mistake. Executives belong to one NHS team and their contribution should be valued and recognised equally. MiP urges the government to re-think and for foundation trusts to do the right thing and use their powers to give all their staff a pay rise this year.

The government in Wales has announced a 3% pay award for executives.

The UNISON ballot

MiP members are taking part in the UNISON ballot because MiP members belong to both UNISON and the FDA. Any challenge to the outcome of this year's pay round will take place under UNISON's industrial action framework. The ballot opens today and closes on 10 September. It takes about a minute to vote. If you have not received a ballot email from UNISON by Wednesday 4 August, then contact MiP by email at info@miphealth.org.uk and we will help you.

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