Politics

Nurse's pay: 76% of workers facing pay cut are women, says Labour

A controversial pay offer, which workers say would represent a real terms pay cut for nurses, has seen the government face heavy criticism.

Red writing on a white wall which reads "Fund the NHS. Don't clap".

Nurses working on the frontline during coronavirus have said the government's reaction to key workers has been "nauseating". Credit: Geograph (Evelyn Simak)

Ministers have been told International Women’s Day would be the perfect opportunity for them to rethink their current pay offer to nurses and NHS staff after it was revealed four in five of those affected by the pay cut are women.

A controversial pay offer, which workers say would represent a real terms pay cut for frontline staff including nurses, has faced heavy criticism by campaigners who say the government’s need to step up and give staff “what they need”.

The Government is facing growing anger over its recommended one per cent pay rise, with some unions threatening industrial action and Labour warning women made up the majority of jobs in the professions affected including nursing, midwives, health visitors and support roles.

New research by the party revealed that 76 per cent of workers – nearly one million NHS staff – affected by the Government’s NHS pay cut are women.

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Marsha de Cordova MP, Labour’s shadow women and equalities secretary, said: “Once again the Chancellor has chosen to turn his back on women who have experienced the worst economic and social impacts of the pandemic.

“To give women on the NHS front lines a pay cut is just another example of how badly Boris Johnson’s Government have consistently failed women.

“The Government must guarantee NHS workers a real pay rise, conduct an Equality Impact Assessment and immediately restart gender pay gap reporting.”

These calls come after those who have worked on the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic said the government’s treatment of nurses had been “nauseating”.

NHS nurse Holly Turner hit out at the government for encouraging the campaign of clapping for key workers while offering a real terms pay cut to staff who have worked through the pandemic.

The comments were made on a talk show hosted by journalist Owen Jones on his YouTube channel. The weekly live show, The Tory War on Nurses, focussed on the current pay offer being made to health workers across the UK by the Westminster government.

Those working in the NHS said it was an honour to be appreciated by the public, but said the gestures felt “incredibly hollow” coming from Tory ministers after the continued imposition of austerity.

Ruby Kirby from the Feminist Nursing Network said: “Clapping us doesn’t put food on our table, it doesn’t put roofs over our heads. Portraying NHS workers as heroes during a pandemic is just going to lead to morale injury and burnout because we’re not heroes, we’re human beings, we’re workers.

“We have to deal with the conditions that we are in during a pandemic and clapping is quite frankly not recognition enough from the government.”

Kirby said some nurses are also forced to do overtime and extra work in order to feed themselves and their family. They added: “The amount of nurses and healthcare workers who go to food banks is utterly disgusting.”

Those representing staff have said it is time Tory ministers recognise the efforts of women and all healthcare staff over the past year, adding that Monday would be the perfect day to do so on International Women’s Day.

Unison’s head of health Sara Gorton said: “The overwhelming majority of staff working in the NHS are women. The people who’ve been working tirelessly to care for us during the pandemic, and who expected a decent pay rise to recognise their efforts and boost morale.

“International Women’s Day would be the perfect opportunity for ministers to swiftly admit they’ve got this wrong and think again about their paltry pay offer.”

A Government spokesperson said:“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% 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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