Boris Johnson Defends 1% NHS Pay Rise By Saying Times ‘Tough’

Press Association

Prime minister Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has claimed ministers gave NHS workers “as much as we can” as the angry backlash over the government’s proposed 1% pay rise offer continues. 

Speaking on a visit to a vaccination centre in Brent in north London, the prime minister would not be drawn on whether he would perform a U-turn over the proposed hike in pay for healthcare staff, who have been on the frontline during the Covid pandemic

Nurses and other staff who could be affected by the “insulting” rise were preparing to protest outside Downing Street, in London, and in Manchester, on Sunday afternoon. 

Pressed on the issue, Johnson said: “I’m massively grateful to all NHS staff and indeed to social care workers who have been heroic throughout the pandemic.

“What we have done is try to give them as much as we can at the present time.

“The independent pay review body will obviously look at what we’ve proposed and come back.” 

Asked if ministers could be forced into a U-turn over the pay offer, which is being looked at by an independent pay review board, Johnson said: “Don’t forget that there has been a public sector pay freeze, we’re in pretty tough times.

“We’ve tried to give the NHS as much as we possibly can and that means, in addition to the £140 billion of annual money, we’ve got another £62 billion we’ve found to help support the NHS throughout the crisis.

“My gratitude is overwhelming and I’m so grateful particularly to the nurses, and thankfully we are seeing more nurses now in our amazing NHS – there are 10,000 more nurses this year than there were last year.”

Speaking earlier on Sunday, education secretary Gavin Williamson said the offer was “part of a process”, suggesting the government could rethink the rise. 

Shown a video of prime minister Boris Johnson and Sunak clapping for carers during the pandemic, as hospitals and care homes were struggling to cope with the pandemic, BBC One presenter Andrew Marr put it to Williamson that the minuscule hike was “frankly an insult” to staff. 

“What we are having to deal with is incredibly challenging economic circumstances,” the education secretary said. 

Press Association

Ministers have offered NHS staff a 1% pay rise

“We have put forward a proposal. We have put forward what we believe that we can afford and it’s part of a process and that will sort of be looked at.

“But really, our focus is on making sure we recover from this pandemic.”

Pressed on a possible U-turn, he added: “We’ve stated that this is very much part of the process – what the government has put forward has been passed to an independent review.”

The “insulting” pay rise, reportedly insisted on by chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Treasury department, has provoked widespread anger. 

The British Medical Association (BMA), the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Nursing and Unison have said in a letter to ministers that the pay deal “fails the test of honesty and fails to provide staff who have been on the very frontline of the pandemic the fair pay deal they need”.

The letter adds: “Our members are the doctors, nurses, midwives, porters, healthcare assistants and more, already exhausted and distressed, who are also expected to go on caring for the millions of patients on waiting lists, coping with a huge backlog of treatment as well as caring for those with Covid-19.”

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said it was “reprehensible” for ministers not to recommend putting NHS pay up by more than 1%.

The senior Labour politician told Sky News” “The government, to be clear, is not planning a pay rise.

“That is a real-terms pay cut because it doesn’t keep up with inflation and for nurses to be offered a pay cut is just reprehensible in our view.

“In the NHS long-term plan, the government budgeted for a 2.1% pay rise – that is what nurses were promised and last year they legislated for that in order to give nurses a cast-iron guarantee that after years of seeing their real-terms pay fall, that the Government would finally reverse that decision and start to see their pay increase.

“We think they ought to go into these negotiations at a bare minimum of honouring that promise of a 2.1% (increase) and then consider what more they can offer to our NHS staff who have done so much to put their families and themselves at risk every day going into work – some of them have died.”

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