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Campaigning to End Pay Restraint in the NHS

Jon Skewes, Director for Policy, Employment Relations and Communications
12 May, 2017

Campaigning to End Pay Restraint in the NHS

NHS staff have now seen seven years of pay restraint and with at least another three years on the horizon. This is a disastrous, unsustainable decision for maternity services and the NHS. We are working with other NHS trade unions to break the Government’s policy of pay restraint. Back in 2014 we took the historic decision to take industrial action for the first time in our 134-year history. The RCM took a leading role in that dispute and the historic scenes of midwives and maternity support workers on the picket lines was a pivotal step in winning the dispute. We are now presented with another potentially pivotal turning point in ending the Government’s policy of pay restraint in the NHS – the general election on the 8th June.

We need you to tell the candidates standing in your constituency that you work as a midwife/maternity support worker and how pay restraint has personally affected you. You should tell them you are a member of the RCM and that we are asking all candidates to pledge to end pay restraint in the NHS. You should try and include some of the points we have presented to the NHSPRB including:

  • Below-inflation increases for the past seven years have caused midwives’ pay to drop in value by over £6,000 since 2010. March saw CPI inflation climb to 2.3% and RPI inflation climb to 3.2% and both are set to rise even further. This is significantly above the 1% pay award so effectively results in a pay cut for midwives and other frontline clinical staff. 
  • There is currently a shortage of 3,500 midwives in the NHS and there are many more midwives debating leaving midwifery because the staffing and workload pressures are challenging midwives’ ability to give high quality, safe care to women and their families.
  • It is reckless to continue with the policy of pay restraint given the current shortage of staff especially because there are two staffing crises that are looming on the horizon: namely the introduction of tuition of fees for new midwifery students and the uncertain future of staff from other EU countries.
  • The Government need to intervene now to retain much-needed staff before it is too late and our evidence to the NHSPRB shows that 80% of midwives who are intending to leave or have left the service tell us they would be persuaded to stay if their pay was higher.
  • The NHSPRB cited the RCM’s evidence many times in their report (we were the most quoted trade union) and in particular, the report’s chapter on morale, motivation and engagement focused on just two professional groups that they are particularly concerned about: ambulance workers and midwives; this is a warning signs that the Government must take notice of. 
  • The NHSPRB repeatedly criticised the Government’s policy of pay restraint in their report saying it is coming under stress and is unsustainable. They said: “We are concerned that, in too many places, the default strategy to deal with significant increases in patient demand within a slowly increasing budget is by expecting NHS staff to work more intensively, in more stressful working environments, for pay that continues to decrease in real terms. We do not consider this a sustainable position”.
  • We want the NHSPRB to be able to make unfettered recommendations instead of the Government capping the process before it has begun.

We will be working hard at a national level to make these arguments too and by working at both a national and local level to influence the parties and candidates we hope to find a political solution so we can end of pay restraint in the NHS. 

The RCM consistently argues that the NHS is reliant on midwives’, maternity support workers’ and all other NHS staffs’ goodwill and we want the Government to recognise that. We want to use the opportunity of the election to influence the Government to address the evidence that the RCM, and other NHS trade unions, put to the NHS Pay Review Body and show they understand the seriousness of the staffing crisis in the NHS and work to retain existing NHS staff in the service. We want the Government to show all NHS staff they are valued by giving them a fair pay rise that is in line with inflation.

We will be working hard at national level to influence the parties to end the policy of pay restraint but we also need the message to be repeated locally. Please make sure you ask your local candidates about their position on NHS pay restraint. You might meet the candidates when they are out canvassing, at local hustings or you can email or tweet them. This website gives you information about how to find the candidates in your local area: https://tweetyourcandidate.com/ . It would be great if you could email the team at the RCM to let us know what they say by emailing election@rcm.org.uk. Together we can show that investment in NHS staff is an investment in high quality, safe care.

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