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Unison is calling for talks over pay in a bid to avoid a repeat of last year’s widespread strikes in the NHS.
The union, which represents ambulance workers, nurses, cleaners, medical secretaries, occupational therapists, porters and other NHS staff, has written to Health Secretary Victoria Atkins stressing the urgency of a pay rise in April.
Unison has told the acting chair of the NHS pay review body (PRB) of its decision to deal with the government rather than submitting evidence.
The union believes the PRB process takes too long, is not sufficiently independent, nor fit for purpose.
The GMB has taken a similar decision on behalf of its members in the NHS.
Unison said staff already know they will not receive this year’s pay rise on time in April because of delays in the PRB process.
Vacancy rates remain “stubbornly high” across every part of the NHS in England, said Unison, adding that trusts were more than 110,000 staff short, which was having a huge impact on workload, morale and patient care.
Unison’s acting head of health Helga Pile said: “There’s a staffing emergency across every part of the NHS in England.
“There are simply too few health workers to meet increasing demand. That leaves staff stretched ever more thinly as they try desperately to deliver quality care to patients.
“It took many days of strikes to get last year’s pay rise agreed, but since then inflation has failed to fall as far, or as fast, as experts predicted.
“With the lump sums that helped settle the dispute no longer part of their pay packets, health workers now think they got a raw deal and will expect a better settlement in 2024.
“As it stands, NHS staff on the lowest pay band will be earning just a penny an hour above the minimum wage when it rises in April and their salaries are well short of the real living wage.
“If the government fails to put pay right the picture looks bleak for the NHS and everyone needing its care.
“Decent wage increases this year won’t solve all the health service’s problems, but they could help keep experienced employees in their jobs and attract new recruits.
“With more staff at its disposal, the NHS would be in a much better place to get backlogs, waits and delays down. That can only be good news for patients who will be seen and treated more quickly.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We hugely value all our NHS staff, and have asked the independent pay review bodies to make recommendations on pay for 24/25 – as is usual practice in the public sector.
“These independent bodies are made up of industry experts. When making their recommendations, they take into account several factors like the cost of living as well as value for the taxpayer.
“We strongly encourage trade unions to take part in this process so their members’ views are heard.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub