NHS: Britons urged to join in sarcastic 'mass slow handclap' to protest proposed 1% pay rise

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener

Britons are being encouraged to join in a sarcastic "mass slow handclap" to protest against the government's proposed pay rise for NHS staff of just 1%.

Union Unison said people should "stand up" against the "derisory" pay increase proposal by taking part in the mass slow clap on Thursday March 11 at 8pm.

It said this will be repeated three weeks later on April 1, the day staff were due to have their next wage increase.

The protest is a parody of the previous 'clap for carers' campaign, in which members of the public, along with the prime minister and top Cabinet ministers, applauded NHS workers earlier in the pandemic for leading the battle against coronavirus.

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Millions stood on doorsteps and clapped for health staff who’ve given their all. Let’s now stand up for their right to fair wages.

“Give the chancellor a slow hand clap for his miserly one per cent. Times may be tough but this deal is below-inflation and derisory. It’s like the worst of austerity is back."

Unison - the UK's biggest union, with more than 1.3 million members - is calling on the government to give NHS workers a pay rise equivalent to £2,000 more a year.

The pay rise proposed by the government will give NHS nurses a wage increase of around £3.50 a week, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), which adds up to less than £200 a year.

With inflation next year expected to be at least 1.5%, many have said the proposed pay rise would be a pay cut in real terms.

The RCN has already set up an £35 million industrial action fund to support its 450,000 members, if they decide to strike in protest at the pay rise.

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The Unite union also said it would not rule out asking members about potential strike action.Referencing last year's clap for carers, the union's national officer for its health sector wing Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said the "time for clapping has stopped, now is the time to pay up".

The government is facing a furious backlash from nurses, doctors, health care unions, politicians and the public for proposing the pay rise, which will in real-terms will amount to a pay cut due to inflation.

Ministers defended the proposal, saying 1% was the most the government could afford at a time when the economy was under “huge pressure” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Downing Street defended the pay rise, saying it's what is "affordable".

Nurse Holly Turner said: "We entered the pandemic with a 100,000 staff deficit and I think that the health secretary clearly has no intention of fighting for us, despite what he says. He clearly thinks that clapping and wearing a badge that says care is enough - well it's not."

Unison general secretary Ms McAnea added: “NHS staff have worked throughout the darkest days in health service history. They were expecting a fair increase that reflects their exceptional efforts. “Nurses, midwives, porters, cleaners and other health workers are upset, hurt and angry. There were 100,000 vacancies even before Covid hit. Now the health service will be losing staff quicker than they can recruit new ones. “This offer isn’t just bad for staff. It’s bad for the NHS and the patients it cares for.”