Turn ‘Clap for Carers’ into cash for carers, say trade unions

Trade unions representing health workers have called on the government to turn the ‘Clap for Carers’ movement into cash for those key workers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

UNISON, Unite, GMB, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Midwives and nine other health unions have urged government ministers to award healthcare staff an early pay rise.

They point out that nurses, healthcare assistants, paramedics, porters, cleaners and all staff working in healthcare have put themselves in danger since Covid-19 hit the UK as equipment and testing have been inadequate.

With NHS staff in year three of a three-year pay deal that was opposed by GMB members, the labour movement is now saying that is it time for pay to increase for all working in the NHS – including private contractors.

In letters to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, the 14 unions representing 1.3 million NHS employees have called for pay talks to start soon and allow key health workers to receive a wage boost before the year ends.

The demand comes ahead of the 72nd birthday of the NHS on Sunday, July 5th, when the public will be encouraged to come together at 5pm and applaud the staff once again after the weekly clap ended in May.

UNISON’s head of health Sara Gorton, who chairs the NHS group of unions, 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’ birthday, ministers can show how much they value health staff by committing to an early pay rise that the entire country supports.”

GMB national officer Rachel Harrison added: “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. The least ministers can do is reverse the decade of real terms pay cuts their government imposed.

“As lockdown measures ease and people try to return to ‘normal’, nothing changes for our healthcare workers. Covid-19 is still here, PPE is still an issue, testing is still an issue.”

When asked in May about the possibility of a pay rise for nurses amid reports of a potential public sector pay freeze, Matt Hancock replied that nurses had already benefitted from a “very significant pay rise”.

The Health Secretary was referring to the 6.5% over three years, which was awarded to health staff in 2018. This deal was criticised by some at the time as representing a real terms pay cut for many workers.

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