Divided The NHS FallsPosted: 07/10/2013 | |
In times of severe squeezes on both public and household spending, it is not surprising that workers’ pay is squeezed as businesses try to maintain or grow profits and governments make botched efforts to narrow budget deficits. It is also not surprising that both the private and public sectors are seeking to neuter trade unions or other means by which employees pressurise their bosses to keep their pay up with inflation.
Nevertheless, it is disappointing to see that British ministers plan to scrap collective pay negotiations in the National Health Service. Instead of awarding the 1% pay rise (that public sector employees are given) across the board, nurses, consultants and doctors will only be awarded these sub-inflation level increases subject to the judgment of managers. Allegedly, this is to allow mangers to penalise poor-performing workers by allowing their wages to be eroded by inflation. That’s certainly an interesting argument: from that we can infer that poor performance is tolerated in the NHS, and that good workers are not rewarded with promotion.
The NHS is often cited as the third largest employer in the world, second only to Walmart and the Chinese army. Accordingly, any universal pay rise does have an alarming-sounding price tag. However, such sums are modest when put into context: with UK public spending not far below £700,000,000,000, a lot of sums appear modest. And as is so often the case with the NHS, miserly pay rises are being awarded because we know that nurses will not take any noticeable industrial action because they will never endanger or neglect their patients. It might make an easy saving on paper, but there must be an effect on morale.
Anyway, even if “outstanding” NHS staff win a 2%, or even 3% pay rise this year, they will lose out eventually. Their colleagues will not feel valued, but more importantly, there can no longer be any collective pressure to increase pay. Don’t tell me that that won’t dampen even further future pay rises. Let us be clear what is being planned and why: the placing of NHS staff at an even further disadvantage in dealing with mangers by dissolving any shred of solidarity between them in order to depress pay levels well into the future… And just maybe make our hospitals look like good investments to future buyers.
It is not a question of when collective pay negotiations will be scrapped though: it remains a question of if. As long as NHS staff are robust in defence of themselves, I’m sure that they can see this cynical plan off.