NHS Pay: There’s no Government goodwill

Well, what a surprise. The Government submitted evidence to the Pay Review Body yesterday against increasing NHS pay. The Nursing Times article is here. Apparently recruitment is buoyant, and the NHS is a really good place to work. All that bullying and stress and overwork must be a figment of our collective imagination.

When two NHS unions negotiated a three year pay award back in April, their negotiators placed great faith in something called a ‘re-opener clause’.

Unite’s view – I think rightly – was that the re-opener clause wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. What the re-opener clause actually says is, In the event that the NHS PRB receive and identify new evidence of a significant and material change in recruitment and retention and wider economic and labour market conditions, they may request a remit from the Secretary of State to review the increases set out in this agreement for 2009/10 and/or 2010/11′.

In other words, we’re allowed to say ‘Please’ to the Pay Review Body, the Pay Review Body is allowed to say ‘Please’ to Alan Johnson, and Alan Johnson might – if he’s in a good mood and the wind’s in the right direction and Gordon Brown gives him the nod – might just possibly consider asking the Pay Review Body to look at the possibility of recommending a higher increase – which the Government might or might not accept.

We can’t, of course, rely on any of this happening. Why should Gordon Brown worry about us being underpaid? He cuts our pay; our unions hand over the money anyway.

There are two fights to be had here. One is to stop handing over blank cheques to Labour. If the Labour Party wants our money, it’s high time we got something in return.

The more immediate fight is for a ‘Yes’ vote in the Unite pay ballot. We’re not going to get a pay increase on the basis of Government good will – that’s quite clear. We’ll get what we fight for.

The Unite ballot matters. Every member in our Health Sector should be voting ‘YES’ for action.


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