Thank you for contacting me about the key workers who have kept our country going throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. I understand that you are particularly concerned about the proposed 1% pay rise for NHS staff.
Our healthcare workers, care home staff, delivery drivers, public transport workers, retail staff, teachers, cleaners, those who work in the utility sectors and so many more key workers have been the backbone of this country as we have battled with the Coronavirus. Whilst many of us have been fortunate enough to be able to work from home, they have not – and as a result, they have continued to head out to work, putting themselves and their families at risk.
My Labour colleague, Jonathan Ashworth, put it so eloquently when he said that our NHS staff are “undervalued, overworked and underpaid”. I think that this is true of all our key workers, many of whom are on minimum wage and work inhumane zero-hours contracts.
Labour has always been the party of working people.
In our 2019 manifesto, we committed to restoring public sector pay to at least pre-financial crisis levels, starting with an increase of 5%. We also committed to bringing in a Real Living Wage of at least £10 per hour for all workers, alongside a ban on zero-hours contracts for workers who put in regular hours for more than 12 weeks.
At the end of last year, the Chancellor announced that some public sector workers, including teachers, police officers, soldiers and civil servants, are going to be subjected to a pay freeze. At the same time, we were told that NHS staff would be exempt from this pay freeze – so, of course, people were expecting that NHS staff would be recommended a pay rise that at least aligned their wages with the cost of living.
But following the Budget which failed to offer even a penny more to hospitals, the government proposed that NHS staff should receive a 1% pay rise.
After the year our health system has just endured, a proposed 1% pay rise is quite frankly an insult and Labour have raised this issue in an Urgent Question to the government. It is disgraceful that after readily handing out millions of pounds to their friends and donors for projects that have been abject failures, the Tories cannot commit to paying NHS staff the wages they deserve.
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, has said that NHS staff are heroes – “the very best of us”. I know that you will agree with me that a 1% pay rise does not reflect the sacrifices, hard work and dedication of our country’s outstanding healthcare professionals.
Health and Social Care work has always been an issue close to my heart. During the past decade of Tory government, I have consistently opposed their attempts to cut and privatise the NHS. As you know, I led from the frontbench opposition to the hated Health and Social Care Act and I successfully fought to save the Whittington.
Our NHS staff deserve so much better.
Thank you again for contacting me about this important topic. If you have any further points you would like to raise about this issue, or indeed any other, please do not hesitate to get back in touch.
The Rt Hon. Emily Thornberry MP
Islington South and Finsbury
Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade