Government moves for a further clampdown on the pay of health workers received a fresh blow today when nurses' leaders rejected the idea and voiced "fury" at the controversial plans.
The Royal College of Nursing, which represents more than 400,000 nurses, launched an attack on the proposal to halt annual increments on top of a general two-year pay freeze, in return for a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies.
General secretary Peter Carter described the proposals as an "unwarranted attack" on hard-working nurses, adding: "Asking staff to give up their increments when in return only some will have a guarantee of no compulsory redundancy is, frankly, just not on.
"We are also highly sceptical that the employers would be able to deliver their part of the bargain with job security. After all, the RCN's Frontline First campaign has already identified 27,000 jobs earmarked to go in the NHS.
"The proposals also coincide with the increase in VAT and continuing anger about bankers' bonuses. Nurses and healthcare assistants did not argue against the two-year pay freeze announced last year as they accepted the argument that we're all in it together.
"However, there isn't much together about it and nurses feel they are being punished for an economic problem that is not of their making.
"The RCN is rejecting these proposals after hearing from nursing staff up and down the country who are furious with the plans."
The RCN said increments rewarded skills and experience gained by staff every year they were in the job and helped recruit and retain staff.
Unison also rejected the extra freeze on pay earlier this week, saying it believed the funding gap in the NHS was so great that its members were sceptical that NHS Trusts would abide by a "no compulsory redundancy" agreement for two years.
Just over a million employees in England earning up to £34,189 are being asked to give up their annual increments, on top of an existing two-year pay freeze.
The Government expected that freezing incremental increases for NHS staff in England would save £1.9 billion over two years.
Mike Jackson, Unison's senior national officer, said: "This was the wrong offer, at the wrong time. Unison members were extremely sceptical that trusts up and down the country would stick to the no compulsory redundancy agreement. It is clear from today's decision by the RCN that their members feel the same.
"We will be resisting any unilateral attempts by trusts to try and go ahead and implement a freeze on increments. Our members see Health Secretary Andrew Lansley trying to fool the public that the NHS is being protected, when in reality it is being told to make £20 billion in so-called efficiency savings.
"Why else would staff including nurses, paramedics, therapists and cleaners be asked to take not just a two-year pay freeze, but a freeze on their increments as well?"Reuse content