The heroes are outraged. “Slap in the face”, “pathetic”, “worst possible insult”: Associations, trade unions and the opposition in Great Britain have reacted in disbelief and insult since it became known that the highly acclaimed NHS nurses were receiving a wage increase of one percent.
The “guardian angels of the nation” see themselves fobbed off with breadcrumbs. The government snatched a long-promised wage increase from them – there is already talk of a strike. The UNISON union emphasized that in view of the expected inflation rate of 1.5 percent, this would be a real wage cut.
Phased plan announced
It is an inopportune dispute for the government. The country is still fighting the corona pandemic, and there are thousands of corona patients in clinics. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a realistic step-by-step plan for the end of the corona measures. But the fact that the head of government, who has often shown himself to be friends with NHS workers and was treated for days in hospital because of a Covid illness, is now not rewarding the commitment of the “frontline fighters”, gnaws at the painstakingly built image of the crisis manager.
Instead there are warm words for the “Covid heroes”. “The whole country is very grateful to the health and social workers for what they have done,” said the prime minister recently. When it comes to wages, however, the government remains tough: fighting the pandemic has cost a lot of money on all fronts. Health Secretary Matt Hancock stressed that the NHS forces had been “scraped out” of a zero round for the public service.
“Hit in the face”
But the fact that Treasury Secretary Rishi Sunak did not mention the NHS when presenting his budget plans caused anger, as did remarks by Nursing Secretary Nadine Dorries. She was “pleasantly surprised” that a wage increase was even possible, Dorries told the BBC. “Nurses love their job. They do their job because they love their job.”
But the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) takes a very different view. Many of the 450,000 or so members were planning to quit their jobs, RCN representative Patricia Marquis told Times Radio. RCN has calculated that an experienced force will remain an additional 3.50 pounds (4.06 euros) per week after the increase. “That slap in the face has reinforced their belief that neither the government nor parts of the public value them the way they would like them to be,” said Marquis.
RCN is already collecting strike money. The British Medical Association is considering recommending that its 159,000 members refuse extra shifts.
Prime Minister Johnson is now even threatened with a revolt by his own Conservative Party. Ex-Health Secretary Dan Poulter said it was the wrong time to cut wages for NHS workers who “went beyond their limits” in the pandemic. Conservative MP Roger Gale told BBC Radio 4: “The way this has been presented and handled has been inappropriate.”
Military spending increased
Political commentators in London point out that money basically seems to be there. Billions are planned for the High Speed 2 rail project, which is supposed to better connect economically remote areas in northern England to the capital. Military spending has increased by a multiple of billions – and in return hundreds of millions of pounds of development aid have been saved.
Johnson and Health Secretary Hancock also have to put up with sharp allegations because companies with connections to friends and supporters of the Conservative Party have received orders for corona protective equipment worth millions. A – previously unused – TV studio that the premier had set up for his press conferences cost 2.6 million pounds.
And finally there is the “equipment scandal” surrounding Johnson’s official residence. His fiancée, Carrie Symonds, had the Downing Street serviced apartment overhauled. That is said to have cost around £ 200,000. As the “Daily Mail” reported on Saturday, the Conservative Party is said to have taken over a large part of the costs at Johnson’s request. Now wealthy supporters are to step in to offset the controversial payments, as the newspaper wrote.