Voters back Labor over public services as unions blame Tories for ‘months of misery’ | Public service policy

More than twice as many voters now trust Labor to improve public services than the Conservatives after the government finally backed down and agreed an improved pay deal for NHS workers aimed at ending damaging health sector strikes.

The latest Opinium poll Watcher shows just 17% of people back the Tories over public services, compared to 43% who would prefer Labor to run them, after the government came out with an expanded offer last week.

The findings, which reinforce the view that ministers have lost the battle for public opinion over the NHS strikes, come as the health unions’ chief negotiator accused the Treasury and No 10 of for months, as he he says, has caused avoidable misery for patients and workers. , and called for a total overhaul of how the NHS pays.

Query table

As ministers back down, teaching unions are also taking part in talks aimed at ending strikes that closed thousands of schools last week, Unison’s head of health Sarah Gorton said. Watcher that the public and NHS staff had suffered an “intolerable situation” which must never be allowed to happen again.

“This dispute could be resolved in the fall. But for months the government refused to talk about pay, insisting another pay rise for NHS staff was out of reach and out of the question.

“This failure to act sooner has cost healthcare workers significant lost pay in the strike days and means unnecessary disruption to the public and an already strained NHS,” Gorton said.

He said that ideally, the system of wage review bodies, whose members are appointed by the government to recommend public sector wage increases, should be completely replaced, both to speed up the process and to avoid political influence.

“There has to be a better way of doing things,” he said, adding that it had been clear for months that Health Secretary Steve Barclay wanted to offer more to NHS staff but had been blocked by No 10 and the Treasury.

“Complete renovation is necessary. “The ideal is to move to annual negotiations, perhaps less frequently in more stable economic times, involving government, employers and unions,” Gorton said.

“It’s time to learn the lessons, take politics out of NHS payment regulation and find a better way to reward healthcare workers who do so much.”

Insisting they would not improve on NHS pay review body recommendations, ministers announced a one-off bonus for NHS workers of up to 8.2%. Most health unions have decided to take the offer, which also includes a permanent 5% pay rise from April, with the lowest paid getting a bigger increase for their members.

However, there is still uncertainty over whether chancellor Jeremy Hunt, who did not mention an improved proposal in last week’s spring budget, is able to find the extra money, or whether it should come from NHS efficiency savings. Government sources said that discussions are ongoing. “It could be that some of it is extra money and some of it is efficiency. These are questions to be decided.” Current Treasury budgets allowed only 3.5% as recommended by the wage review body.

Attention will now turn to negotiations between teaching unions and Education Secretary Gillian Keegan. The National Education Union went on strike for two days in England last week, but said it would “establish a period of calm for two weeks” and not announce further strikes while negotiations continue.

While teaching unions will want an offer comparable to NHS workers, there will be extra cash for health staff due to the pandemic, which ministers may argue should not be duplicated for teachers.

In a further sign that the government will come under fresh pressure to increase pay offers to striking workers, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch urged transport ministers on Saturday to show the same “change of attitude” as their health counterparts. RMT members of 14 train operators were on strike again on Saturday as part of a long-running dispute over work, pay and conditions.

Workers at the Passport Office announced plans to strike for five weeks on Friday in an escalation of their dispute over work, pay and conditions. More than 1,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services Union at passport offices in England, Scotland and Wales will take part in the campaign between April 3 and May 5.

But with the government now keen to end the spate of strikes, the British Medical Association also hopes to start talks soon over pay for junior doctors. The BMA has asked for a 35% pay rise to offset real term cuts since 2008-09, which Barclay described as “unaffordable”.

Source link