There has been a lot of hysteria about the NHS pay offer that the Conservative government has apparently negotiated with the unions, and is set to offer to staff later this month.

It’s a 6.5 per cent rise, spread over three years as follows: three per cent in 2018-19, with one per cent or two per cent in the following two financial years.

Commentators have made the obvious point: It only equals the current rate of inflation in the first year, and is lower in the years that follow.

Here‘s Evolve Politics:

“Following months of negotiations between Ministers and Union officials, 1 million NHS staff are set to be offered what the Government is calling a 6.5% pay rise according to a leaked report today.

“However, in practice, what that looks like is as follows: a 3% increase in salary from 2018-2019, which is simply the rate of inflation, and then a rise of 1-2% in the following two years.

“The pay rise, which simply lines pay with inflation, is not a pay rise in any meaningful sense. Considering the fact that such an inadequate, paltry measure comes after eight years of pay that hasn’t even nearly matched the rate of inflation, the insult is stark.”

Of course, we don’t know what inflation will be doing in 2019-21. It might be lower – right?

Oh, but wait: Brexit.

The Tories aren’t about to get a trade deal with the EU because they can’t get their act together over the Northern Irish border, so everything is going to cost a heck of a lot more, starting in – guess when? – 2019.

It’s as though the Tories are doing it out of spite.

Bear in mind that NHS workers are considerably worse-off already than they were in 2010, when the Tories first slithered back into office. That’s the effect of their long-term pay freeze – and it’s the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Tory tactics to harm the health service. Here‘s Owen Jones:

There’s the never-ending real terms pay cut which, by last year, had left the average health worker nearly £2,000 poorer in real terms than 2010. Ambulance crew are £5,286 worse off. There’s the starving of resources, even as an ageing population imposes greater demand – this has been the longest squeeze in spending as a proportion of GDP since its foundation. There’s the determination to privatise swaths of the service by stealth, and a chaotic top-down reorganisation which has fragmented the service.

Throw in the scrapping of NHS bursaries, too, which has led to a collapse in nursery and midwifery applications by nearly a quarter. Then there’s the demonisation of workers when they stand up for themselves, those who dedicate their lives to caring for those in need: take the junior doctors’ strike for example.

According to the Mirror, the pay offer has been worked out “after lengthy talks between unions and the government”.

What were the unions doing – apart from bargaining away a day’s holiday, so overworked NHS staff become even more overworked?

It’s a terrible pay offer that harms conditions of work for NHS staff and makes them no better off. When it is offered to employees, they should reject it en masse.

And they should have a serious word with their union representatives.

An end to austerity – which is how the Tories are billing this, let’s not forget – would be a pay deal that starts to make up the difference between what staff are paid now and what they would be paid if the pointless austerity measures of the last nearly eight years had never been imposed.

But then, this isn’t an end to austerity – it’s Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt laughing in the faces of the poor.

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