The Scottish Government hopes to agree a new pay deal for NHS workers that will recognise their “incredible efforts” during the coronavirus pandemic, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.
Talks are taking place at the moment between the Scottish Government and trade unions over wages for health service staff.
Sturgeon stressed the need to create a “better, fairer” country after the Covid-19 crisis that recognises the work of NHS workers.
In a video message screened as part of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) annual congress, the FM praised the response of unions to Covid-19.
Describing the pandemic as being the “biggest challenge most of us have faced in our lifetimes”, she added the “trade union movement has been central to Scotland’s response”.
Sturgeon said: “Scotland can’t be the same after the pandemic as it was before it. We must take this opportunity to rebuild our economy and renew our society.
“We must emerge from the pandemic as a better, fairer and more sustainable country.
“That’s not something that Government can achieve on its own, it does require a sense of collective endeavour across our economy and society.
“I know the trade union movement will more than play its part.”
Her comments came as STUC general secretary Roz Foyer told the congress – which is taking place virtually because of the pandemic – that an extra £2 per hour should be given to NHS staff, carers, workers in retail and transport and those who helped to keep social security programmes running through the pandemic.
While people applauded key workers for their efforts earlier this year, Ms Foyer said “claps and rainbows don’t pay the bills” and ministers must “recognise their contribution properly”.
She demanded: “It’s time we gave them a decent pay rise, to make sure they can feed and look after their own families.”
Ms Foyer added: “Key workers are the cornerstone of our economy and our society.
“They keep people fed, healthy and cared for, and able to access the basic goods and services they need to live.
“While the pay of many workers is not in the gift of the Scottish Government, they have control over public-sector pay policy in Scotland – which has a direct or impact on the pay of NHS workers, council workers, teachers, firefighters and civil servants – all workers who in one way or another have been on the frontline.”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard pledged his party will continue to make the case for better pay.
He told the congress: “Our key workers have been on the front line of this pandemic and it is time that their work was recognised, respected and valued at its true worth.”
Theresa Fyffe, the director of the Royal College of Nursing Scotland said: “While we acknowledge the First Minister’s commitment to agreeing a new pay deal for NHS workers that will recognise our members’ ‘incredible efforts’ during the pandemic, what’s needed is a pay deal which recognises the impact of the years of pay restraint and truly values the skills and clinical expertise of nursing staff. This is why the Royal College of Nursing is calling for a 12.5% pay increase.
“We need to ensure that nursing is attractive, well-paid and meaningfully supported, otherwise, we risk many of our members leaving the profession – at a time when the nation needs them more than ever.”