Moving Forward on NHS Pay

Briefing  for Branches


Foreword from UNISON Head of Health Sara Gorton


Over the last few months UNISON health branches have been working hard to support your members through  one of  the toughest  times  you have  ever  faced. We know UNISON health branches have gone the extra mile, fielding many enquiries, dealing with issues around PPE, risk assessments and supporting those members who are clinically vulnerable or shielding. You have dealt with  the aftermath of our members contracting COVID 19 or sadly losing their lives.

Branches have adapted to new ways of working and have stepped up to help our members.

UNISON health activists and members have told us of your pride in what you have been doing and how you have appreciated the support you have been shown by the public over recent months. UNISON believes that the public now expects their gratitude to be reflected in what the government does next for NHS staff.


Launching our call for early talks on pay

  The Blueprint for Return was issued by the joint NHS trade unions in May 2020 and outlined our expectation that the government make a clear statement of intent that the contribution of all NHS staff, whatever their jobs, in dealing with this pandemic will be reflected in future conversations about pay.

Prior to the COVID emergency the SGE was working to implement a set of mandates to

  • Develop a joint trade union UK-wide core claim for 2021/22 (Conference 2019 Motion 6)
  • Take forward general union policy for a minimum wage of £10ph
  • Begin the process of consulting branches and regions on futuremechanisms for setting NHS pay rises for 2022 and beyond (Conference 2019 Motion 9)

As the pandemic took hold, there were a number of calls for short-term Covid bonuses for certain groups of staff. The Health SGE discussed this and concluded this approach would be divisive and tokenistic and a non-consolidated bonus could let the government off the hook cheaply. And with talk that a 2-year public sector pay freeze was under consideration, the SGE felt there was no time to waste and the best and most sustainable approach was to go for early settlement of the 2021 pay round. After discussion of what a pay claim could look like, the SGE decided to test £2000 on all pay points as a substantial but credible amount that would be clear and simple to campaign for, reflect One team values, and get well clear of a £10 per hour minimum rate.

Members’ views on bringing forward pay talks were overwhelmingly positive.

Tens of thousands of members responded to our survey, and nearly 9 out of 10 of them supported a campaign for an early NHS pay rise. There was also strong support for the idea of a £2000 pay claim.

At the same time, we discussed these positions with the other 13 NHS staff side unions who were all very supportive of seeking early settlement and were starting to consider their own views on what a pay claim should contain.

Against the backdrop of the NHS 72nd birthday, the final clap for carers and the upcoming coronavirus budget the health service group executive made the decision to move quickly. On the 3rd July, alongside the 13 other staff side NHS unions, we launched our Moving Forward on NHS Pay campa ign. The joint NHS unions wrote to the prime minister to ask for pay talks to be moved forward. You can read our press release and the letter to the PM and the chance llor , and letters were also sent to the relevant ministers or secretaries in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. We also wrote to all our members in the NHS.

We are asking the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to commit to pay talks and  an early pay settlement. We have asked  the government  to  show their  support for healthcare staff by:

  • Making an immediate commitment to pay talks and a meaningful pay rise to

show staff how much they are valued – warm words are not enough.

  • Recognising the importance of pay in tackling the vacancies that exist across all parts of the NHS workforce – in every team, department and
  • Using the delivery of an early pay deal as part of the strategy for meeting recruitment and retention targets and delivering safe and effective staffing levels for
  • Integrating an early NHS pay deal into plans for helping the economy move forward, given the size of the NHS workforce and the positive effects of these staff having more money in their pockets for local businesses in your constituencies.
  • Providing the funding needed to deliver an early, meaningful and much­ deserved pay rise for all staff – including those employed by contractors to provide NHS This additional funding must be reflected in devolved funding to enable the NHS across the UK to move forward on pay.


Get your branch ready for the pay campaign.

 The call for early pay talks to the PM was the first step in our campaign. In our recent survey, members showed strong support for a £2000 pay claim and we  will take this into our ongoing discussions with the other 13 NHS trade unions about reaching a joint pay claim in the next few weeks. The Health SGE will continue to oversee this work, and a pay claim will be published once these discussions reach a conclusion.

This campaign begins in very different circumstances than we have been used to. Branch officers, reps or UNISON organising staff may not have easy access to notice boards or canteens. Sharing of campaign materials and the distribution of leaflets may be challenging and we appreciate that your branch capacity might be limited right now. However, we know there is a real appetite for this campaign so now is the time for your branch to begin to prepare itself for the next stages.

We will report back you on our progress and when we are ready to launch the pay claim, we will come back to you with some specific campaign actions.

You can get your branch ready for the pay campaign by:

  1. Promoting the campaign on your branch websites and social media channels. Get sharing the campaign graphics and messages to the government to bring forward pay talks. You can download the campaign graphics


  1. Asking your current workplace contacts and reps to sign up talk to their work mates about the


  1. Recruiting more contacts so that we can improve our ability to talk to members in every team in the


  1. Asking members to update their details, particularly email addresses and contact permission. We will be contacting members to  let them know  what  is happening and will seek their views before any decision is


  1. Talk to other staff side union colleagues and share ideas about how to spread the word about the