Nurses and health workers at a hospital trust in London have walked out on strike today, as the NHS pay deal in England comes into force.
Members of union Unite have walked out of their workplace at Guy’s at St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in protest of the deal and to call for new negotiations.
“The current pay deal does not address the fundamental problems undermining the NHS”
The strike at Guy’s at St Thomas’ will last for 24 hours, having started from 7am.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said of the walkout: “Our members are returning to the picket lines in targeted industrial action to place further pressure on the government to re-open pay negotiations.
“The current pay deal does not address the fundamental problems undermining the NHS.
“Workers have suffered real terms pay cuts for over a decade and can no longer afford to make ends meet, resulting in experienced staff leaving the NHS in droves.”
Unite was one of two unions – the other being the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) – to have declined the pay deal. However, because it was accepted by the majority of unions overall, the deal has been implemented.
In total, 52% of Unite members voted to reject the offer, and Ms Graham promised at the time that the union would continue its dispute with the government until a better pay deal was issued.
The current pay deal includes a 5% consolidated (permanent) increase for 2023-24, which increases to 10.4% for those on the lowest bands, and a one-off lump sum of at least £1,655.
The UK Government announced the pay deal had come into force as of today, and said more than a million NHS staff would receive a pay rise backdated to April.
Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay has said throughout the last few months that it was the best offer the government could give.
He added today: “More than one million of our hard-working NHS staff will begin to receive more money in their pay packet from today, including a backlog bonus for all their efforts during the pandemic.
“We’re giving nurses, paramedics, physiotherapists and other eligible staff a fair pay rise, which will see for example, band six staff getting an extra £5,000 over two years.
“We hugely value the work of NHS staff and the vital role they’re playing to cut waiting lists, which is one of the government’s five priorities, and recognises the work they put in day in and day out.”
“Our members have spoken loud and clear – their pay is far from fair and appropriate”
On the contrary, RCN executive director for pay, Colin Poolman, said the pay deal implemented today was “in no way” good enough.
“Our members have spoken loud and clear – their pay is far from fair and appropriate.” Mr Poolman said.
“It in no way matches the value or importance of nursing staff who have experienced a real-terms pay cut for the last decade.”
He added: “This offer alone will not attract people to the nursing profession, or stop the mass exodus of experienced staff needed to keep the NHS safe.
“Nursing staff are fighting for their patients, and the very future of our NHS – not just for their pay.”
RCN members in England may return to the picket lines in summer. A ballot running from Tuesday 23 May to Friday 23 June is asking nurses for an England-wide strike mandate.
Today’s Unite strike will be followed by another at Yorkshire Ambulance Trust, which will include paramedics and call handlers, between 2pm and 10pm on Friday, 2 June.