GMB union  •  Industrial  •  RCN - Royal College of Nursing  •  UNISON union  •  Unite the union

NHS pay deal is a pay cut: vote no!

28 March 2023

PAT CULLEN, general secretary of the RCN, returned from the negotiating table late last month with a real pay cut, not just for this year but for next year as well. She also returned to an outcry of anger from nurses, who immediately saw through the figures and mobilised for resistance to the sell-out.

The offer includes the paltry 3.5% increase awarded by the Pay Review Body but adds two non-consolidated bonuses worth on average 5%, according to nurse activists who know how to interpret the figures. Finally, it accepts a pay rise of 5% for 2023–24. But since this merely replaces the 5% one off bonuses for this year, given the rising costs of living—CPI rose to 9.2% per year in February and food prices by 18.2%—this adds up at best to zero, and an actual pay cut for the lower grades.

All union leaders have signed up to the deal except Unite, the smallest NHS union. But all eyes are on the RCN, since they have launched (limited) strike action. Cullen has already threatened rejectionist members, saying this is ‘the government’s final offer’, after which there will be no more talks, and even that the bonuses will be withdrawn if nurses vote no.

NHS Workers Say NO

Activists immediately responded to these haughty threats, tweeting:

‘Let’s be clear, this offer is the result of a relatively small number of strike days taken by some of the NHS workforce—a bigger strike mandate taken by a bigger portion of the workforce would shift the government even further. The Government saying there’s no more money is a standard line they feed too. There was no money for this offer back in December, but here we are.’

This is no idle rhetoric either. The junior doctors, aggrieved at starting pay of just £14 an hour, have announced a four-day strike starting 11 April. Eight hundred Unite members at St Thomas’s and Guys hospital, London, have delivered a resounding 92% strike mandate, including nurses, pharmacists, estates staff and medical technicians.

This shows that the NHS strikes are still growing and, given the correct leadership, staff are willing to strike harder for longer in order to win. This, alongside the solidarity NHS workers will always have from the wider working class, makes this the key dispute at the moment.

NHS Workers Say NO is a grassroots campaign, built on the #NHSPay15 campaign of 2020, which successfully forced the unions to put in claims for the restoration of pay lost since 2010. Now that inflation has ripped through their pay packets, they are more determined than ever to get a real pay rise.

In many areas they are asking solidarity groups to leaflet hospitals with #VoteReject flyers. Get involved with this crucial solidarity campaign! If nurses reject this insulting offer and can get the strikes put back on, it can inspire other groups of workers. The government knows this—as do our leaders—and are scared. Let’s give them something to be scared about.

See more: NHS Workers Say No

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