A government cabinet minister has been accused of ignoring reality after he claimed that nurses were the only group of public sector workers who received a pay rise during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps made the comments in a BBC interview this morning, which were then highlighted in a social media post by Royal College of Nursing general secretary and chief executive, Pat Cullen.
“Nursing staff hearing this will be furious”
In the interview, Mr Shapps was asked why the government did not pay nurses more, and he replied: “Because the government has got to make judgements across the entire economy. Nurses will be paid more and indeed, they were the only group who received pay rises while everyone else was in public services receiving a pay freeze, quite rightly, because of coronavirus.”
There was a public sector pay freeze in 2021-22 following the coronavirus pandemic, however all NHS workers were excluded, not just nurses.
Responding to the comments Ms Cullen told Nursing Times: “This comment ignores the reality that every pay deal nursing staff have been dealt in the last ten years has been a real-terms pay cut. Nursing staff hearing this will be furious.”
She added: “A decade of wage stagnation coupled with spiralling food, fuel and energy costs is pushing many into poverty and questioning if they can afford to stay in the profession.
“Every nurse that leaves exacerbates the workforce crisis, which is putting patient safety at risk”
Ms Cullen said it was “comments like this that have forced” the RCN to ballot its members on industrial strike action next month, adding that “nursing will not be taken for granted any longer”.
Consultative industrial action ballots are to be launched by the RCN in England, Scotland and Wales in September following the 2022-23 pay awards. The union Unison is also due to hold similar ballots in England and Wales this autumn.
The social media post on Twitter in which Ms Cullen flagged Mr Shapps’ comments has been viewed almost 6,000 times and prompted furious responses from other Twitter users.
RCN’s regional officer Daniel Heppell wrote: “Keep speaking truth to power Pat Cullen. The facts speak for themselves.”
Mr Shapps’ office has been contacted for comment.