Hardworking staff keep our NHS going – they don’t deserve a pay cut

RCM and RCN members are calling for the NHS pay restraint to be scrapped


The government’s NHS pay restraint is imposing a real-terms pay cut on midwives, nurses and other NHS staff. Elizabeth Turner, a workplace rep for the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), attended a recent lobby of MPs on the issue of the pay restraint.

When the call went out for RCM members to lobby parliament to end NHS pay restraint straight away I knew that I needed to attend to represent the 200 members in our branch.

Ending the ongoing pay restraint is something I feel very passionate about; I know how much this is affecting midwives and maternity support workers locally and across the UK.

Myself and another member, Frances Fraser, met Jon Skewes and the other members just outside Westminster Hall. As we made our way to Committee Room 15 (where the lobby was being held) I turned to Fran and commented that perhaps we’d finally bitten off more than we could chew!

From the moment we got into the room the RCM and RCN staff were organised, motivating and reassuring. There was a quick briefing and we had a chance to ask questions and make sure we were all lobbying for the same thing.

We wanted MPs to attend the debate that afternoon and vote to move to scrap the NHS pay cap and increase salaries in line with recommendations. Not a big ask when MPs happily approved their own pay raise in recent memory.

The speed at which union staff started calling out constituencies was astonishing. Within minutes the committee room was almost empty as we poured out into the corridor to speak to MPs. All MPs were reasonably well informed and sympathetic to our cause, but without exception they were shocked at just how dire our pay situation is.

With fees hitting £9,000 a year and no bursary left to speak of, the NHS graduates of the future will arrive in the wards with debts that current staff can only dream of.

I felt strongly we were lobbying for every member who has reached the top of their band with nowhere else to progress, for every newly qualified member who has no inkling that the excitement of a pay slip will soon fade to cynicism and for members like myself who regularly scour the off duty for extra shifts that are needed to exist — not to top up the holiday fund.

Prior to the lobby I had tried to set up a meeting with my MP, Clive Lewis, but it really was too short notice and while he couldn’t attend the lobby he did message me saying he was supportive of an above one per cent pay rise for all public sector staff.

Perhaps I’m not yet a cynic because after our protracted Twitter conversations I believe him. Frances and myself will be meeting with his team in the coming weeks because we feel committed to doing all we can to end pay restraint.

I feel after ten years as a member and almost four as a workplace rep that I am a committed trade unionist. I believe strongly in trade unionism and think that together we can achieve great things.

I can absolutely see where my union dues go each month and can assure members that they are well spent in trying to get the best deal for us all. I would encourage any member to attend the next lobbying session and want to thank our members for the chance to represent them at this level — it was a privilege.

Elizabeth Turner is an RCM workplace rep. For #heartunions week, Left Foot Forward is featuring the essential work done by union reps around the UK.

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