Health workers in pay protest outside Sunderland Royal Hospital

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HEALTH workers from Sunderland Royal Hospital made their anger towards the coalition Government known as they protested over pay.

Staff who are members of the Unison union held placards outside the hospital during their lunch breaks yesterday.

The demonstration was against a decision by the Department of Health not to accept a recommended one per cent across the board wage rise for NHS workers in England.

Unison organiser Stephen Mead told the Echo: “This protest is against (health secretary) Jeremy Hunt’s decision not to agree the independent pay review body’s decision to give NHS workers a one per cent pay rise.

“What has been offered is a one per cent rise, but it is not consolidated into the pay, and anybody who is not on an incremental scale will not get a pay award after three years of a pay freeze.

“Seventy per cent of those who won’t get the rise are nurses and midwives, and it’s not right.”

Unison member Anita Briggs, who is a nurse at the Royal, said: “The feeling is that this is very unfair against nurses.

“We feel that we are not being treated fairly, and we also feel that the service we give will suffer with the lack of a pay rise.

“Patients in Sunderland have been very supportive. They realise that the NHS is fantastic, and it’s something which I am very proud of.”

Unison organised the day of protest as it prepares to ballot its members over strike action.

Mr Mead added: “There is a distinct possibility that today’s action will be followed by a ballot for a strike.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “NHS staff are our greatest asset. That’s why at a time of severe funding restraint we have been clear that they should receive at least one per cent additional pay this year and next.

“We cannot afford a general pay rise on top of incremental pay increases of up to six per cent without risking front-line jobs and safe staffing levels.

“We are disappointed that the unions rejected our offer to discuss any alternative proposals on pay, within an available budget of nearly £1billion.

“However, our door remains open if they wish to reconsider.”