Healthcare workers feel 'betrayed' over plans to increase pay by 1%
Health workers and unions in Suffolk and north Essex have branded the proposed 1% pay rise for NHS staff an "absolute disgrace" after their work throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
The government has revealed plans to increase workers' pay slightly from next year, with millions of other public sector staff set to see their salaries frozen.
In a document submitted to the NHS Pay Review Body, the government argues the outlook for the next financial year is "uncertain" and pay awards "must be both fair and affordable".
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said the increase would only result in an extra £3.50 take-home pay a week for experienced nurses, while the Labour Party has described the 1% rise as a "real-terms pay cut" when inflation is taken into consideration.
The Unite union, which represents tens of thousands of health service staff, has warned of industrial action amid growing anger at the proposals, while the Royal College of Nursing announced it will set up a £35 million industrial action fund in response.
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Holly Turner, a nurse from Colchester, said it was "absolutely devastating to see (the Government) place no value in us whatsoever".
She said: "Strike action would be a complete last resort for us and it would have to be something that could be planned carefully in order to keep our patients safe because, for all NHS staff, patient safety is priority.
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"But long term, if we're going to keep our patients safe, if we need to take industrial action in order to do that, I think we will."
She added: "We are exhausted, we are demoralised, we are fed up - but there is also an increased level of anger."
Helen Maw, RCN senior officer for Suffolk, said: "Nursing staff across Suffolk will have gone to work today bitterly disappointed after hearing that the government believes that a 1% pay rise is a fair and sufficient recognition of their work, particularly after the last year they have endured.
"If the government is to tackle the staffing shortages which endanger the lives of patients and drive nursing staff to leave the profession, providing a fair and sufficient pay rise is essential."
Sarah Barber, a nurse at Ipswich Hospital and borough councillor, said: "I feel betrayed. Nurses have worked really hard throughout Covid and the years before.
"We've seen our pay go down 7% over the years.
"We feel really devastated. We have risked our lives in keeping the service going.
"All of my bills are going up - but my pay is only up 1%.
"We weren’t expecting a huge increase in our wages, but we certainly didn’t expect a real-term cut. It’s insulting - Boris Johnson is clapping for us one minute, then cutting our income the next."
Teresa MacKay, of the Ipswich Trades Union Council, said: "I'm feeling angry, as a lot of NHS staff are. I've had a lot of them messaging me about this.
"They have kept our country going throughout the pandemic - this pay rise is an absolute insult. It's outrageous.
"Unite, my union, is demanding a 15% pay rise. NHS staff haven't had a decent pay rise since 2010.
"If they had 15%, it would put them in line with other workers."
Ivan Henderson, Labour group leader on Essex County Council and former Harwich MP, added: "Our nurses and other NHS staff have risked their lives to keep us safe.
"Given all the sacrifice, given the critical situation we are still in, and given the huge challenges ahead, I simply cannot believe the Conservatives are looking to make cuts to NHS pay and funding. It’s an absolute disgrace."
Downing Street has defended the proposed 1% pay rise for NHS staff, saying it was what was "affordable". The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We recognise the impact Covid has had on the NHS and we want to honour this.
"But the pandemic has real consequences and we have done all that we can to protect jobs and save livelihoods. The recommended 1% pay rise for NHS staff is what is affordable while acknowledging their work and commitment over the last 12 months."