Nurses campaigning for a restorative pay rise have described the Scottish Government’s offer as “nowhere near good enough”.
Health secretary Jeane Freeman said the pay offer, with raises of between 4% and 5.4%, was the biggest uplift since devolution for directly employed NHS staff.
But NHS Workers Say No, a group campaigning for better pay, said it fell well short of a rise that would make up for a decade of freezes and cuts.
Brenda Eadie, nurse and Glasgow-based organiser, told STV News: “We do not want a rise. And we are not ungrateful for the offer, but this is not what we are fighting for, we are fighting for our restorative pay.
“The pay that was stolen from us during the last ten years of freezes and cuts.”
Ms Eadie drew comparisons with other public sector professionals, including teachers and police officers.
A fully qualified nurse in the job for six years earns less than a fully qualified teacher at the start of their career.
Ms Eadie said: “Nurses are professionals too and the pay should reflect that. We were the soldiers in the trenches wearing inappropriate protective wear, putting ourselves in harm’s way to look after the sick and we would do it all over again. We deserve more.”
Unions are holding meetings to discuss the Scottish Government’s offer before presenting it to their memberships. Ms Eadie believes NHS workers feel insulted by the 4% rise and are prepared to ballot for industrial action.
She said the offer had been presented as “generous” after a decision was delayed time and again before being announced just as election campaigning begins.
She said: “It’s in our nature to care, it’s not in our nature to fight. We’ve never stood up and said ‘enough is enough’. We didn’t ask to be put into poverty for the last ten years.
“We’re not going to take the crumbs after everyone else has been fed. We’re here caring for you, caring for your families, we deserve to be recognised and paid properly. We don’t deserve to work 60-hour weeks and then go to foodbanks to feed our families.”
Health secretary Jeane Freeman said: “Over 154,000 staff would benefit from this rise, which would see the average pay of a front line NHS Nurse rise by over £1200 a year.
“This has been an exceptionally challenging year for our health service and I am pleased that the Scottish Government is able to recognise the service and dedication of our healthcare staff.”
Freeman said the deal was “making the applause real” and would keep Scotland’s NHS staff the best paid in the UK.
Willie Duffy, Unison Scotland head of health, said: “This is a final offer as a result of the forthcoming election. Tomorrow (Friday, March 26) Unison Scotland Health Committee will agree how we consult Unison members.
“This past year has highlighted the dedication, skill and sacrifices that all NHS staff make. Their contribution must be recognised in their pay packets.
“It was simply not good enough to push negotiations to the summer and blame the UK Government for the delay so we are pleased to have made significant progress in these pay talks.
“However, the final decision on whether to accept this offer lies with Unison members and we look forward to consulting them in the coming weeks.”
Scottish Labour deputy leader and health and social care spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “We welcome this offer of four per cent for our dedicated NHS workers.
“However, the offer fails to consider our social care workers who have been offered pennies in comparison.
“Social care staff – our unsung heroes of the pandemic – have been forgotten. That is why Scottish Labour is committed to delivering a national recovery that values proper pay and respect for the social care workforce, with a wage rise to £15 an hour with an immediate increase to £12 an hour – anything less is an insult.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland’s NHS staff “deserve more than applause and 1% is not enough” – a reference to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the UK Government’s recommendation to give NHS workers in England a pay rise of just 1%.