The Government is being urged to build on the huge public support shown for the NHS during the virus pandemic by giving health workers an early pay rise.
Unions representing more than 1.3 million nurses, cleaners, physiotherapists, healthcare assistants, dieticians, radiographers, porters, midwives, paramedics and other NHS employees have written to the Chancellor and the Prime Minister calling for pay talks to start soon.
The unions, including Unison, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Midwives, GMB, Unite, and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said the pandemic has made the dedication and commitment of NHS staff plain for all to see.
Health workers are nearing the end of a three-year pay deal, and unions believe the Government should provide funding for an early pay rise for all NHS staff, including domestics, catering workers, security guards and other support staff working for private contractors.
Boris Johnson was told that improvements to staff pay would enable the NHS to hold on to experienced workers and help with the recruitment of new staff needed to fill vacancies.
But the unions added that the Government should not see the appeal for NHS workers to get an early pay rise as a Covid bonus.
Unison’s head of health Sara Gorton said: “The applause and kind words shown during the difficult days of the pandemic were a huge source of comfort to NHS staff, but now the Government should show its appreciation in a different way.
“Throughout lockdown, the public has seen the immense dedication, commitment and compassion shown by NHS staff, and now expects them to be rewarded.
“As the clapping returns this weekend for the NHS’s birthday, ministers can show how much they value health staff by committing to an early pay rise that the entire country supports.”
Hannah Reed, from the RCN, said: “Across the NHS, nursing and healthcare staff are still working harder than ever. These people are the country’s greatest asset. When we celebrate that, politicians must think about how staff can be fairly paid and valued.
“They do not need more warm words and praise that, to many, is already beginning to feel hollow. An earlier pay rise will go some way to showing the Government values all they do, not just this year but day in, day out.”
Executive director for external relations at the Royal College of Midwives Jon Skewes, who is also treasurer for the NHS group of unions, said: “Midwives and all NHS staff deserve a fair and decent pay rise. They did before this pandemic and they certainly do now. To truly value the contribution of NHS staff, their pay must be restored in real terms.”
Rachel Harrison, national officer of the GMB, said: “The public recognised our members’ worth from the start, coming out to clap for our carers every Thursday. Now it’s time for Government to do the same.
“This is not a Covid-19 bonus, but their efforts during this pandemic do need to be recognised.”