Nurses protest in Edinburgh over pay

Nurses prepare to protest. Picture: contributed
Nurses prepare to protest. Picture: contributed
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HUNDREDS of nurses will descend on Holyrood tomorrow to protest at the recent pay rise for NHS staff which has been capped at one per cent.

The Scottish Government confirmed that the pay increase for NHS staff will be capped for another year for those earning over £22,000, while employees earning £22,000 or less will receive a flat rate £400 increase.

Over 200 nurses from the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (RIE) will join the annual May Day Rally to express their anger at a real-term fall in nurses pay of around 14 per cent since 2010.

Chris Findlay, a senior charge nurse with over 20 years’ experience, works at the flagship hospital and will be leading the march.

The 41-year-old said: “I don’t think anyone knows what to do – we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

“I don’t think the powers that be think we would ever have a strike or take any kind of industrial action.

“The more I speak to people, the more my feelings have changed and I’ve been a nurse for over 20 years.

“We would strike, we would take industrial action, because this is like the tenth year in a row where we are being capped at one per cent by the same pay review body that increased the MPs’ pay by ten per cent in 2015 and by 1.4 per cent this year.”

Mr Findlay said problems with car parking charges and the annual nursing registration fee had piled on the misery for staff who already feel undervalued after the “pay rise”.

He said: “Car parking charges are a massive problem. They’re only holding off with the proposed increase for a year – already there’s a big backlog of people waiting for parking permits and a lot of them live out of town.

“They have to go up to the park and ride which is adding around 30-45 minutes onto their journey each way and after a 12-and-a-half hour shift – it’s not the best.

“The other thing is obviously we have to pay to be nurses each year – we have to pay a registration fee of around £160 which MPs don’t have to pay for and government officials don’t have to pay. If we don’t pay that fee we can’t be nurses.”

NHS staff have been seeking a year-on-year pay rise that at least meets inflation – 
currently 2.3 per cent.

Unison branch chair, Tom Waterson, said: “I’m delighted Chris has taken the initiative to get so many nurses from Edinburgh Royal Infirmary to protest against the Westminster imposed one per cent.

“Unison Scotland does not agree with the pay review body and has taken a conference decision that we can remove ourselves from the pay review body and would urge all trade unions to join us in getting back to proper collective bargaining with the Scottish Government.”

Official figures from 2016 showed that 2207 nursing posts were unfilled – a vacancy rate of 3.6 per cent.

Janis Butler, Interim Director of Human Resources at NHS Lothian said: “All NHS staff pay is set nationally. NHS Lothian values the time, effort and commitment that its staff put into improving health, care and treatment of patients.”

kevan.christie@jpress.co.uk