Let’s call the government out on pay with handclap protest

Recruitment pledges must be backed by decent wage rise if NHS is to thrive

People are being asked to stand on their doorsteps and balconies tonight (Thursday) to slow handclap the government over its proposal for a 1% pay rise for NHS staff.

The public action – backed by UNISON, health unions and the TUC – is the latest step in the campaign to achieve fair pay for health workers who have worked tirelessly to keep the country safe, says UNISON.

The mass event takes place at 8pm on the first anniversary of the World Health Organisation declaring Covid-19 a global pandemic.

The slow handclap will be repeated three weeks later on 1 April, the day staff were due to have their next wage increase.

Paying staff properly is a vital part of building the NHS for the future, says UNISON.

Plans to recruit more staff are not enough to protect the health system and will only have an effect if experienced staff are also encouraged to stay with a significant pay ​increase.

Low morale following months of exhaustion and stress cop​ing with coronavirus demands mean many experienced staff are considering their futures.

But with an NHS workforce exodus ​unless the government begins to better value staff, there won’t be the skilled mentors for new recruits and shortages will be just as bad, according to the union.​

UNISON South East regional secretary Steve Torrance said: “The chancellor and the prime minister should be ashamed of treating health staff so shabbily. This is the chance for the public to call them out on pay.

“Everyone in the NHS has coped in the toughest conditions this past year. Many have faced the trauma of patients dying, the exhaustion from endless shifts and the strain of chronic understaffing. Yet the government has shown them zero respect for keeping the NHS on its feet.

“The government only wants to talk about recruiting new staff but its actions are forcing experienced staff out the door.

“Ministers boast of investing billions in the NHS, but the big money is going on ​Test and Trace, and infrastructure – not on staff. It’s the equivalent of buying a beautiful new car but refusing to pay for driving lessons.

“Many NHS workers were on the brink of leaving, but they’ve been yearning for a reason to stay in the jobs they love. The Prime Minister’s pitiful pay proposal is ​achieving the reverse and giving ​staff yet another reason to pack it in.

“The NHS will be even weaker if experienced staff leave. Recruiting new ​employees is all well and good, but they need to be coached and mentored before they can deliver the highest quality ​care.

“People across the UK should show what they think of the 1% pay proposal and give health staff their support this evening.”

Notes to editors:
– Tonight (Thursday) at 8pm, health unions are urging the public to show support for NHS staff with a slow hand clap demonstrating their displeasure at government proposals for a 1% pay rise. UNISON is calling on the government to give all NHS workers a pay rise of at least £2,000. Health workers are currently in the final year of a three-year deal. They’re due a pay rise in April.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.