More than a million health care workers in the UK are getting their first real raise since 2010.
Nurses, paramedics, emergency call handlers, hospital porters and other workers have been promised salary increases of 6.5% to 29% over the next three years, starting as soon as July.
The hikes, which are worth a combined 拢4.2 billion ($5.9 billion), follow years of stagnant pay for public sector workers in the UK. Real wages in health care have dropped by 14% since 2010, according to the Royal College of Nursing, a labor union.
“Seven years of pay freezes and wage increases well below the cost of living have meant significant financial hardship for health staff and their families,” said Sara Gorton, the lead negotiator for health care unions.
The agreement between labor unions and the government means that the lowest paid health care workers will see their salaries rise by up to 13% this year, an increase of over 拢2,000 ($2,800). UK inflation is running at 2.7%.
The deal, which affects 1.3 million workers in the UK’s National Health Service, does not include doctors.
Annual public sector pay increases in the UK were capped at 1% in 2013, after two years of being frozen, because of concerns over rising government debt.
Almost a third of all British public service employees work for the National Health Service. Another 30% work in education.
Prime Minister Theresa May has been under increasing pressure in recent months to lift the caps on pay.
It’s not just wages that has been restrained in recent years. Overall government spending slumped from 45% of the country’s GDP in 2010 to just over 39% in 2017.
Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development show that the UK is one of the lowest health care spenders in the G7. It lags the United States, Germany, France, Japan and Canada.
Low pay is contributing to serious staffing problems at the NHS. According to The Royal College of Nursing, 40,000 nursing jobs in England alone are currently unfilled.
More nurses are leaving the profession than joining it, and the number of applications for college degrees in nursing plunged after the government scrapped college scholarship programs.
Janet Davies, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said the pay deal should “begin to make the profession attractive again.”