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Labour blasts 'shabby' treatment of nurses and calls for increased pay offer

“After all they have done for us, this is such a shabby way to treat our NHS staff," said shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds

Boris Johnson visits Princess Alexandra Hospital in Essex in 2019. Labour has sought to reignite the row over nurses pay ahead of May’s local elections. Image credit: Number 10 / Flickr

Boris Johnson visits Princess Alexandra Hospital in Essex in 2019. Labour has sought to reignite the row over nurses pay ahead of May’s local elections. Image credit: Number 10 / Flickr

Labour has “redoubled” its calls for a “fair” wage increase for NHS staff, seeking to keep the issue of nurses’ pay on the agenda ahead of May’s local elections.

Following the Budget earlier this month, the Government brought forward a controversial pay offer of a one per cent increase for nurses and other NHS workers, despite more than a million staff being promised 2.1 per cent.

Unions say this works out at as little as £3.50 extra a week for nursing staff. Once inflation, which is forecast to be 1.5 per cent in 2021, is taken into account, it equates to a real-terms cut in pay. 

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Labour said a vote for the party in May’s local elections would be a vote to support nurses, pointing to the annual NHS Staff Survey released last week showing the extent of overtime worked.

A total of 308,563 healthcare professionals worked unpaid overtime in 2020 as the pandemic raged, which is up almost 13,000 from the 295,613 staff who worked unpaid overtime in 2019. 

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “The whole country saw the heroism of our nurses and NHS staff during this pandemic and the whole country is watching as this injustice continues,” 

“Our NHS staff deserve a fair pay rise.”

Anneliese Dodds, the party’s shadow chancellor, will visit Milton Keynes University Hospital on Friday (March 19) to “promise” that Labour will fight for a pay increase. 

“A vote for Labour in May is a vote to reverse the insulting real-terms pay cut the Chancellor handed to over 160,000 NHS heroes across the South East at his Budget,” Dodds said.

“After all they have done for us, this is such a shabby way to treat our NHS staff.

“When Labour clapped for our carers during the pandemic, we meant it. That’s why we won’t rest until all our brave NHS staff get the fair, long-term, pay settlement they deserve.”

A Government spokesperson said ministers were “incredibly grateful for the heroic efforts” of NHS staff.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock came under fire earlier this week after he called the one per cent salary increase a “pay rise” and not a real-terms cut. 

A spokesperson for the Royal College of Nursing accused the Government of “digging in” despite public anger. 

“In the middle of a pandemic, ministers cannot justify giving just £3.50 extra per week to nursing staff,” the union said. 

But Labour has also been denounced within its ranks for failing to offer clarity on how much the Government should pay NHS staff. 

According to website LabourList, the party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner was criticised by those on the left for failing to back demands from the Royal College of Nursing for a 12 per cent pay rise. 

The party has only said that nurses should receive a “fair” pay rise of “at least” 2.1 per cent, despite leader of the opposition Keir Starmer declaring at the launch of Labour’s May elections campaign that “a vote for Labour is a vote to support our nurses”. 

Ministers have repeatedly said that a one per cent pay rise is all the country can afford, pointing to strained public finances following Covid-19 and the fact other public sector workers have had their pay frozen completely. 

But a Savana Comres poll of 2,129 UK adults conducted on March 8 found 83 per cent of the public, including 78 per cent of Conservative voters, think the Government should increase its one per cent pay offer. 

The Unite union also warned that “lack of a decent NHS pay rise will lead to a staff exodus and waiting list crisis”. 

Polls will open across England on May 6 for local councils and elected mayors in England, police and crime commissioners in England and Wales and parliamentary and assembly elections in Scotland, Wales and London. 

A Government spokesperson said: “We are incredibly grateful for the heroic efforts of staff across the health sector who are working tirelessly on the frontline of this pandemic.

“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 investment in professional development and increased recruitment.

“That’s with record numbers of doctors and 10,600 more nurses working in our NHS, and with nursing university applications up by over a third.

“The independent pay review bodies will report in late spring and we will consider their recommendations carefully when we receive them.”

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