Unpacking the NHS pay offer

Claire Sullivan, the CSP's director of Employment Relations Union Services talks about what it means to be a physiotherapist and a trade unionist and discusses the NHS pay offer.

by sullivanc

The CSP motto translates roughly as ‘pursue worthy aims’ and for me encapsulates perfectly what it means to be both a physiotherapist and a trade unionist.

While working as a junior physiotherapist, I started out as a CSP steward 32 years ago and pursuing worthy aims was very much my goal.

I wanted to help my patients, my colleagues and the NHS hospital in which I worked.

NHS staff have kept the lights on during the toughest of times

Fast forward to six months ago, when I joined other health trade unions to begin negotiating a new pay deal for NHS staff in England, that same feeling drove us all.

The arguments for a pay rise are well rehearsed but bear repeating at every opportunity.

NHS staff have kept the lights on during the toughest of times. Indeed, not only have they kept the lights on - they have continued to deliver outstanding patient care against a backdrop of cuts, reorganisation and soaring demand.

Their reward for this has been eight years of salary restraint, amounting to deep pay cuts in real terms.  

So delivering a fairer deal for NHS staff was certainly a worthy aim to pursue as we entered negotiations and our goal was clear: to get more money into the pockets of our members as quickly as possible and create a better system for the future.

But while I am passionate about striving for a fairer world of work, I am equally clear that, as trade unionists, we have a responsibility to our members to get the best from the world as it is, not only the world as we would like it to be - what I often refer to as ‘the art of the possible’.

In the health unions, we didn’t get everything we wanted and the same is true for the other parties in the negotiations

In pay talks, that means being absolutely clear about what you seek to achieve and clear also about your ‘red lines’ - combining pragmatism with purpose. In the complex economic and political context in which the NHS and public services operate, some compromise is inevitable. It is often difficult and always uncomfortable - but this is the nature of negotiations.

The proposals are not perfect. In the health unions, we didn’t get everything we wanted and the same is true for the other parties in the negotiations. What has been secured though is a good start towards the recognition that our members and all other NHS staff deserve for the contribution they continue to make under ever-growing pressure. 

The package offers significantly more than NHS staff have had for the last 8 years - a pay rise of at least 6.5% by April 2020 for everyone below Band 8d; considerably higher starting salaries across all bands; quicker progress to the top of pay bands 2-7; and a big step away from poverty pay in the NHS with the introduction of the national living wage. And crucially, of course, this package is funded with £4.2bn of new money for the NHS, making sure that a much deserved pay rise for staff doesn’t come at the expense of already stretched services.

I believe that the offer we have is the best possible achievable through negotiation at this point in time

As I have already said, the NHS operates in the wider context of our complex political and economic environment. I believe that the offer we have is the best possible achievable through negotiation at this point in time - better than the likely alternatives and better than what is on offer elsewhere. I do nonetheless wholly understand the views of those who feel the offer doesn’t go far enough. And that is why I am absolutely committed to this being the start, not the end, of pay recovery, a recovery that we here at the CSP will do everything we possibly can to fight for on behalf of all our members.

The CSP Council and Industrial Relations Committee are recommending acceptance of this offer but the decision, as always, is for all members to make. So please do come to a workplace meeting (there are 150 taking place around England), sign up for a webinar, have a look at our frequently asked questions and, crucially, take part in the online vote when it opens on 8 May.

Claire Sullivan - director of Employment Relations and Union Services (ERUS), the trade union arm of the CSP

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