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Health unions are urging the public to follow the lead of several celebrities and get behind their campaign for fair pay for nurses and other NHS staff.
To mark International Thank You Day, the 14 unions are asking the public to use social media to show their appreciation for NHS workers by backing the call for them to be given a decent pay rise.
“Clapping has been a way of showing support, but the government now needs to pay up”
The unions, which includes the Royal College of Nursing and Unison, have been working together since summer 2020 to fight for an early and significant pay rise for NHS professionals.
At the end of last year, the government committed to excluding nurses on the Agenda for Change pay scheme from a wider public sector pay freeze that it is implementing for 2021.
However, pay talks are behind schedule, and ministers have already indicated that the wage rise awarded will likely be conservative due to the financial challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
As part of their new appeal, the unions are asking people to support the campaign for fair pay by sharing hashtags such as #FairPay on social media, and to message their MPs.
A new video has also been released featuring representatives from a wide variety of health service roles, including nurses Carmel and Tara.
Among the celebrities who have backed the campaign are football pundit Gary Lineker, comedian Jo Brand and actor David Oyelowo, DJ Annie Mac, TV presenter Konnie Huq, and Deborah Meaden from Dragon’s Den.
Unison head of health Sara Gorton, who also chairs the NHS group of unions, said: “The NHS is facing the worst crisis in its history.
“Everyone is relying on health workers in many different roles to see us through.
“Clapping has been a way of showing support, but the government now needs to pay up.”
The appeal comes after Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, wrote to prime minister Boris Johnson last week urging him to be more accurate when discussing nurse pay after he claimed nurses had received a 12.8% pay rise in recent years.
“We continue to listen to our valued staff and trade unions so everyone is rewarded fairly”
She warned Mr Johnson that the figure he presented was not one that her members would recognise and added that nursing staff were worse off now financially than they were in 2010.
Speaking today, Dame Donna said: “Last year, nursing staff were buoyed by overwhelming public gratitude.
“Today presents a new and different way to display that same strength of feeling.”
Executive director for external relations at the Royal College of Midwives, Jon Skewes, who is also treasurer for the NHS group of unions, said NHS staff were facing a challenge like never before and that the government needed to “act now to acknowledge their contribution and commitment”.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said it was right that nurses were exempted from the “temporary pause” on pay rises for public sector workers in 2021.
The spokesperson added: “Over one million NHS staff are currently benefitting from multi-year pay deals, agreed with trade unions.
“These have delivered a pay rise of over 12% for newly qualified nurses.
“We continue to listen to our valued staff and trade unions so everyone is rewarded fairly and, when we receive them, we will consider the recommendations of the independent NHS Pay Review Body.”