UK healthcare worker unions slam proposed 1% pay raise, prepare for possible strike

The UK Minister of State for Mental Health voiced her "pleasant surprise" at the rise, as she expected public sector pay to be frozen.

Matthias Ang | March 06, 2021, 05:20 PM

A proposed pay rise of one percent for all National Health Service (NHS) workers in England has come under fire by health service unions in the UK, British media reported.

The Royal College of Nurses (RCN) criticised the pay rise as "pitiful" while the British Medical Association has lambasted the proposal as a "kick in the teeth", given that doctors have experienced pay cuts in real terms of up to 30 per cent over the past decade.

Its Sara Gorton, the leader of the union for British public services, Unison said, "A one per cent pay rise is the worst kind of insult the government could give health workers who’ve given their absolute everything over the past year."

The pay rise was recommended by the UK's Department of Health and Social Care to an independent panel which advises the UK government on NHS salaries.

RCN: Pay rise only translates to an additional £3.50 (S$6.50) per week

In response to a government spokesperson calling the pay rise a "real-terms increase", the secretary-general of the RCN, Dame Donna Kinnair, highlighted that the pay rise would only translate to an additional weekly increase of £3.50 (S$6.50) for an "experienced nurse".

According to the British government, the official inflation figure of the UK stands at 0.9 per cent, as of Jan. 2021.

As such, Kinnair has slammed the government as being "out of touch" with healthcare workers and the public.

The RCN has since voted to establish a £35 million pound "industrial action fund" in anticipation of a possible strike which will result in members of the union losing income.

The opposition Labour Party said the rise would amount to a cut in "real-terms", and called on the government to give more to the country's "Covid heroes".

UK Health Minister: "Pleasantly surprised" by pay raise

Separately, UK Minister of State for Mental Health Nadine Dorries has called the move a "pleasant surprise", given that salaries in the public sector have been frozen.

When asked about how an NHS worker might feel, she told the BBC:

"Well I absolutely hope they receive the message that we totally appreciate their values over the past year, we hugely value them, which is why the government knew that they could not go without some pay offer."

A spokesperson for the UK government also clarified that certain segments of healthcare workers had seen their pay rise as a result of multi-year deals made with trade unions.

He was quoted by The Evening Standard as saying:

"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 per cent for newly-qualified nurses and will increase junior doctors’ pay scales by 8.2 per cent.

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 of a £513 million (S$950 million) investment in professional development and increased recruitment."

Singapore is increasing the base pay of its healthcare workers by three per cent to 14 per cent

On Friday, March 5, the Ministry of Health in Singapore announced that the monthly base pay for the healthcare sector will be raised from between three per cent to 14 per cent.

MOH highlighted in a media briefing that the salary adjustments are not to recognise the healthcare workers' efforts in fighting Covid-19, as those have been recognised many times.

Instead, the move is to ensure that healthcare workers' salaries remain competitive and Singapore can continue to attract quality healthcare employees.

In the public healthcare sector, roughly 56,300 staff will receive an increase in their monthly base salaries.

Nurses will receive an increase of five to 14 per cent in their monthly base salaries, phased over the next two years.

Allied health professionals, pharmacists, and administrative and ancillary staff, including support care staff, will see an increase of three to seven per cent in their monthly base salaries this year.

The percentage increase for a staff will be based on their profession, grade, and seniority.

In addition, the ministry will also be increasing the starting salaries of nurses, allied health professionals, pharmacists, and administrative and ancillary staff in public healthcare institutions from July 2021.

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