A proposed one per cent pay rise for NHS staff has been branded “an insult to staff still in the battle against Covid-19” by Labour councillors in Coventry.
Coventry City Council is to urge the Independent Pay Review Body to reject the government’s proposals and recommend “the substantial increase that NHS workers so richly deserve” following a motion at full council this week.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended the proposed rise, stating that the government has tried to “give them as much as we can at the present time”.
But it has sparked a backlash from health unions and the Labour party, which have argued it amounts to a real-terms pay cut.
The one per cent rise is lower than the original 2.1 per cent originally planned by the government under the NHS long-term plan, with Labour accusing the government of breaking its promise.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the pandemic has given rise to “issues of affordability”. A final decision is expected in May.
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Raising the issue at Coventry’s full council on Tuesday, former NHS worker Labour Cllr Christine Thomas said: “It is with great sadness and indeed anger that I need to advocate today on behalf of our magnificent NHS workers.
“Cleaners, porters, care support staff, doctors and nurses have all had to face a year of absolute hell on earth. The Prime Minister himself saw first-hand how dedicated these people are.
“The excuse for offering a poultry one per cent was given as there is no money we can’t afford it, this is not an ordinary year otherwise money would have been available.
“Quite right this is not an ordinary year. It is a year the whole country and NHS has been at war with an invisible enemy, Covid-19. The strain our doctors and nurses in particular have had to bear is unbelievable. Offering a one per cent pay rise when inflation is running at 1.7 per cent is a pay cut and frankly an insult.”
Cllr Pat Hetherton, who also worked for the NHS for 32 years, said staff deserved a “decent pay rise to recognise their work”.
She said: “My main concern is what this will mean to the future of the NHS. An NHS that last year has shown beyond measure we all rely on.
“A one per cent pay rise isn’t even a pay rise when expected inflation rises are taken into account. It is an insult to staff still in the battle against Covid-19.”
Opposition Conservatives put forward an amendment urging to “review” rather than “reject” the government’s proposals, and “note” rather than “condemn” the one per cent rise.
Cllr John Blundell said: “There is no doubt the country owes a huge amount of gratitude to everybody involved in the NHS. I don’t think anybody begrudges NHS workers a pay increase.
“I and my colleagues are not going to condemn a government who have spent over £350bn and continue to do so to support businesses and people throughout this dreadful pandemic.
“It’s important to point out we are having this debate before any final decision has been reached. Over the past year this government has proved it is a listening administration from ensuring the continuance of free school meals to the £20 uplift in Universal Credit and more measures for the self employed.
“Quite simply, the government is doing all that it reasonably can in the present circumstances.”
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