Boris Johnson is cutting nurses' pay in real-terms after telling them 'we owe you more than words can say'

  • Boris Johnson has been criticised for announcing a 1% payrise for NHS workers this year
  • Nurses said the pay increase would only amount to £3.50 a week in take-home pay, which amounted to a cut after inflation.
  • The government said pay awards should be “both fair and affordable.”
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Boris Johnson faced heavy criticism from unions and political opponents today after revealing he plans to give NHS staff an increase to their basic pay of just 1%, months after telling nurses “we owe you more than words can say” for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 1% figure covers 2021 and 2022 and was published in a Department of Health document this week. Labour said the figure amounted to a real-terms pay cut for NHS staff due to inflation.

It comes after Boris Johnson in May last year paid tribute to NHS nurses after he was admitted to intensive care with COVID-19.

“You continue to cast light on the darkest moments of our lives. And for that we owe you more than words can say,” the prime minister said in a video message addressed to nurses.

The government said the pay increase reflected the fact that “COVID-19 has placed a huge strain on both public and NHS finances” and said pay awards should be “both fair and affordable.”

The Royal College of Nurses (RCN) called the decision “pitiful and bitterly disappointing” and said the pay review would amount to only an extra £3.50 a week in take-home pay for an experienced nurse.

“The government is dangerously out of touch with nursing staff, NHS workers and the public,” said Donna Kinnair, the RCN chief executive.

“If the Pay Review Body accepts the government view, a pay award as poor as this would amount to only an extra £3.50 per week take-home pay for an experienced nurse.

“Nobody would think that is fair in the middle of a pandemic and it will do nothing to prevent the exodus from nursing.

“Nursing staff would feel they are being punished and made to pay for the cost of the pandemic. It is a political decision to underfund and undervalue nursing staff,” she said.

“The government is dangerously out of touch with nursing staff, NHS workers and the public,”  The group called for a 12.5% increase for nursing salaries.

Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, on Friday criticized the government’s decision on Twitter.

Sharing a Daily Mirror front-page which branded the pay deal an “insult to NHS heroes,” Starmer said: “You can’t rebuild a country by cutting nurses’ pay. Give our Covid heroes a pay rise.”

Sarah Gorton, the head of health at the trade union Unison, said the 1% pay rise was “the worst kind of insult the government could give health workers who’ve given their absolute everything over the past year.”

“Ministers should hang their heads in shame, go back to the drawing board and come up with the kind of pay rise that matches the astounding efforts staff have gone to in the past year,” she said.

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