Pharmacists will be encouraged to join any industrial action over the government’s offer of a 3% pay rise for NHS staff, say union leaders.
The move comes after nine in ten respondents to a ballot of NHS staff by Unite the Union in England rejected the pay deal.
In a statement on 4 October 2021., Unite said that 84% of those who rejected the pay rise said they were willing to take some form of industrial action.
The ballot, which had a 25% response rate from the union’s 100,000 members in the NHS, follows the government’s offer of a 3% pay rise for NHS staff — including hospital pharmacists — backdated to April 2021.
At the time, the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists (GHP) told The Pharmaceutical Journal it was “extremely disappointed” with the offer.
Following the ballot, which was open from 27 August to 24 September 2021, Unite said it would now be liaising with other healthcare trade unions to coordinate pay campaign actions and plan for a comprehensive programme of targeted industrial action.
In a statement to The Pharmaceutical Journal, the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists (GHP) said it will “encourage our members to join the proposed targeted industrial action and days of protest which are planned”.
“Supporting this action is vital, not just for our own terms and conditions, but also in solidarity with pharmacy technicians and the wider pharmacy team, and all NHS workers who deserve greater recognition given the events of the last two years and in advance of the most challenging winter the NHS has ever experienced.”
Hospital pharmacists previously went on strike for four hours in October 2014, after the government rejected the NHS Pay Review Body’s recommendation for a 1% pay rise for all NHS staff.
Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, national officer for health at Unite, said that the union has “agreed a campaign of targeted industrial action and days of protest into the winter and beyond in the continuing campaign for pay justice for NHS workers”.
“We will be seeking to conduct these actions, where possible, with other public sector workers and sister unions who share our discontent on the appalling pay offered to this workforce,” he said.
Thorrun Govind, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board, said: “We’re incredibly proud of all pharmacy teams, who have worked flat out during the pandemic, staying open and being on the front line of the vaccine programme. The pharmacy response and clinical leadership shown have been exceptional. It’s important that all staff are valued and their work rewarded.
“We support the work of the unions who are making the case for NHS staff in England to be given a higher pay rise and we hope the government will reconsider the pay proposal so teams feel recognised for the work they do.
‘’We continue to support the vital role pharmacists play in hospitals and hope that both sides will get back round the table to find a resolution. The actions of the Unions and government are crucial in achieving this. We all depend on the NHS, everyone is a patient or a potential patient. We would not want to see any additional pressure to critical clinical services at this incredibly busy time.”
A similar ballot of 6,000 Unite members in the NHS in Wales found 64% of respondents were prepared to take strike action and 80% would take action short of a strike.
The Welsh government also announced a 3% pay rise for NHS staff on 21 July 2021, with health minister Eluned Morgan saying that she wanted to “thank our Welsh NHS staff for their extraordinary efforts over the course of this pandemic“.
Unite the Union has long called for a pay rise of £3,000 per year or 15%, whichever is greater, for all health sector workers.
NHS staff in Scotland received a pay rise of 4% in May 2021, which was backdated to 1 December 2020.
- Additional reporting added on 8 October 2021
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