Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he would make the “responsible” decision on pay increases for public sector workers, as this is necessary to control inflation. This follows the decision made by junior doctors to hold a further five-day strike, due to a below-inflation offer of a 5% pay increase this year.
Ministers have confirmed they are now considering next year’s pay deal, after several independent pay review bodies reported their findings.
Public sector pay
The Prime Minister called planned walkouts by junior doctors “very disappointing” and claimed this would “make it harder” to bring down NHS waiting lists – one of his key priorities for government. Speaking during a trip to Nottinghamshire, Sunak added “I think everyone can see the economic context that we’re in with inflation higher than we’d like it and it’s important that in that context the government makes the right and responsible decisions on things like public sector pay”. He continued by saying that this is not always easy, but it is the correct way to “get a grip of inflation”.
However, pay review bodies have provided recommendations under which teachers, police officers, prison officers and junior doctors would receive pay rises of 6% or more. Yet, review body recommendations are not legally binding and it is predicted that the Government will choose to reject or partially ignore the advice. Kate Bell, assistant general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), said any decision to ignore pay review body advice would be “driven by politics, not economics” as wages have fallen “well behind inflation” and that there had been a “15-year wage squeeze where wages haven’t kept up with inflation”.
Junior doctor strikes
The British Medical Association (BMA) union, which represents 46,000 junior doctors, has been asking for a 35% increase, saying it was to make up for 15 years of below-inflation rises. A 5-day walk out, the longest in history, has been planned for next month as the union has claimed that the Government’s offer of a 5% pay rise is not credible.
Over half a million appointments have been postponed due to strikes by NHS workers over the last six months, according to official figures. Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting called for the government to resolve the dispute but would not put a figure on how much more doctors should be paid. He added that calls from unions for pay restoration could not be delivered “overnight”.
Junior doctors make up around half of all hospital doctors in England and a quarter of all doctors working in GP surgeries. Staff shortages are also a huge issue across many departments; the government is due to release plans for the “largest expansion in training and workforce” in the NHS’s history, Sunak announced on Sunday, asserting that this would reduce “reliance on foreign-trained healthcare professionals”.
Our healthcare service is in crisis; the Government needs to act quickly and listen to NHS staff to put an end to both strikes and staff shortages.