I completely understand the strong emotions aroused by the discovery that a 1% pay rise is being suggested for nurses when their current pay-deal expires later this year. Many nurses have displayed extraordinary courage and professionalism during the devastating pandemic in the past 12 months and a 1% increase does seem insulting.
No decision has yet been made and will not be until the pay review board reports to Government in May. I expect by then the position to have shifted.
But in the interests of fairness, I would ask constituents to consider the following:
- We have borrowed over £355 billion to combat Coronavirus and public finances are shot to pieces. If we do not get our finances back under control, we will not be able to borrow at today’s very low rates. Every 1% increase in government borrowing rates costs the taxpayer another £25billion.
- Every other public sector worker (apart from the lowest paid) is having their pay frozen this year to help correct public finances (and yes this includes MPs pay)
- If we treat nurses as a special case, what about other public sector workers: police officers dealing with people spitting on them and worse, prison officers coping with the virus in prisons, workers in care homes battling every day to keep the virus away from with vulnerable residents, teachers who have kept the schools open for the children of key workers and many others I could name? What about them?
- 17% of all employees work in the public sector and most of them have at least been employed and paid during the pandemic
- Almost all the people who have lost their jobs or been furloughed (therefore on 80% pay) are in the private sector. They are the ones who have chiefly born the financial impact of the pandemic to date, and many are on universal credit
- We are told that many nurses (average pay £34,000pa) are having to resort to foodbanks. If this is true, why is that the case when they are paid above average salaries for the UK?
- If we were to award nurses the 12.5% their unions are seeking, should it be for nurses only on Covid wards, or all nurses, some of whom have not been near a Covid patient?
I am trying to demonstrate that this is a complex issue. Of course, I salute all those who have protected us through this pandemic. If we had the resources I would favour a one off bonus in the autumn to all those who have been on the front line against the virus, but imagine being the one to decide who gets it and who does not. And can we afford it? None of these decisions are easy.