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Readers’ panel: Would a public sector pay freeze be a ‘slap in the face’ for nurses?

Nursing unions don’t like the sound of one suggestion revealed in a leaked Whitehall document

Prime minister Boris Johnson 'claps for carers'  Picture: Shutterstock

Nursing unions have reacted angrily to a leaked Treasury document proposing a two-year public sector pay freeze to help public finances recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said it is the ‘exact opposite of what’s expected and deserved’, while Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said it would be ‘a slap in the face to all those we applaud each week’. Nursing Standard readers have their say.


Grant Byrne is a fourth-year nursing student in Edinburgh

This latest insult should act as a wake-up call for nurses everywhere. While ministers have been happy to applaud for the cameras, I suspect they never had any real intention of rewarding our efforts. As nurses worked in challenging conditions – many without the necessary personal protective equipment – this plan was penned in Whitehall. Fair pay has never been an outrageous demand but given the sacrifices nurses have made during this pandemic, to deny us our due now ought to be unthinkable. Should this pay freeze become reality, the only appropriate response is industrial action.

Liz Charalambous is a teaching associate in Nottingham

Despite the rhetoric from government leaders, and public displays of admiration for nurses, this should come as no surprise to any of us. RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair was right when she said it is the ‘exact opposite of what’s expected and deserved’. But I suspect the sacrifices made by nurses, many of whom have paid the ultimate price, will soon be forgotten by this government when it comes to appropriate remuneration.

Rachel Kent is a mental health nurse in London

Having come to the end of the three-year pay deal agreed in 2018, I was £34 better off in April than in March. With the more than double voluntary hours I have been putting in during this crisis, I’d naturally like a little more salary, and I’m sure my colleagues would agree we have earned this. But our salaries are funded through taxes, and in the economic crisis caused by COVID-19, money will either need to be saved or made. A public sector pay freeze is an easy target, but that doesn’t make it the right one.

Stacy Johnson is an associate professor at the University of Nottingham

I support a pay freeze, but NHS and social care workers must be exempt. No way should the people who carried this nation during the pandemic – the porters, cleaners, allied health professionals, doctors, nurses and nursing students – have their pay frozen. Government help has kept the public and private sector afloat equally, so the private sector should shoulder its share of responsibility. I want to see caps on the profit the private sector takes from public sector contracts and a freeze on private sector director pay in any company that took money from the government.

Readers’ panel members give their views in a personal capacity only

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