Health unions will not submit joint evidence to the NHS pay review body on the raise staff should get in 2023-24, in a move that threatens the system by which most payments for health services are decided .
Unions representing more than 1 million National Health Service The staff announced Wednesday that they would not share their views on what next year’s increase should be while the dispute over this year’s increase was ongoing.
Health secretary Steve Barclay’s refusal to increase his pay offer of £1,400 a head to health services staff for 2022-23 had made it “impossible” to start talking about next year’s deal, they said.
The unions’ move is a further escalation of their bitter dispute with the government over wages, which prompted ambulance staff in England and Wales to organize their second strike on Wednesday.
The 14 unions want to have direct talks with ministers about pay for this year and next, rather than submit joint evidence on their behalf to the NHS’s Pay Review Body (PRB), an advisory body that then recommends to the government which is the size of the annual increase should be.
His withdrawal from next year’s salary decision process comes amid rise in union anger on the role of the wage review body and the fact that the government chooses its eight members and sets a ceiling on the increase it can recommend.
Barclay has repeatedly insisted for weeks that he cannot offer NHS staff more than the £1,400 the pay review body recommended for 2022 and 2023, even though double-digit inflation has soared since he proposed that sum. , partly as a result of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. .
“The wage review body process does not fit the current context,” said Sara Gorton, Unison’s director of health and chair of the NHS group representing the 14 unions.
“The NHS staffing crisis is so acute that only swift action on pay, both for this financial year and next, can start to turn things around.”
The 14 unions represent nurses, ambulance staff, midwives, physiotherapists, porters and other NHS staff, all except doctors and dentists, whose pay is reviewed by a separate pay review body.
Some unions say the wage review body is no longer fit for purpose and should be scrapped.
“The NHS payment review body is past its expiration date. It is no longer independent of the government and has no powers to make major decisions about wages. So what’s the point of this?” said Sharon Graham, general secretary of the Unite union.
“The fact is that the NHS PRB has presided over over a decade of real pay cuts for almost all NHS staff. It has been a red herring that has allowed the government to bring the NHS to the point of collapse.”
Unite added: “Years of this [NHS pay review] They are responsible for the pay crisis engulfing the NHS and the consequent exodus of staff that has followed.” The NHS in England has around 133,000 vacancies for doctors, nurses and other staff, official figures show.
Paul Nowak, general secretary of the TUC, said last month that the eight public sector wage review bodies they were “in danger of being discredited” by their refusal to recommend increases more in line with rampant inflation and thereby inflicting real-term wage cuts on workers.
Barclay has already told the PRB that the biggest increase the NHS in England can afford to give staff next year is 2%, although a 1% contingency may make that 3%.
However, some healthcare unions can still individually submit evidence to the PRB about the raise they think frontline staff should get in 2023-24. If so, that may lessen the impact of Wednesday’s decision.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Wage review bodies are independent and consider a range of evidence to make their recommendations, including from unions, the NHS and the government.
“The Health and Social Care secretary has made it clear that he wants to have an honest conversation with unions about what is affordable for the 2023-24 wage deal in the current economic context.”