Doctors don't deserve 'enormous' 30% pay rise as it would 'drive inflation', says minister

28 June 2022, 00:01 | Updated: 28 June 2022, 08:30

Britain faces more industrial action as doctors raise the prospect of strikes
Britain faces more industrial action as doctors raise the prospect of strikes. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Will Taylor

Doctors do not deserve an “enormous” 30% pay rise as it would “drive inflation even higher”, a government minister has told LBC.

Chris Philp, minister for technology and the digital economy, said we must “support our doctors” but claimed a demand for a 30% pay rise is “enormous”.

He told LBC’s Nick Ferrari at Breakfast that if everybody asked for a pay hike tomorrow it would “feed through into higher prices”.

“Companies will have to put their prices up, in the case of the NHS we'll have to put taxes up to fund it, and the excess money will just drive prices up even further,” he said.

“If we have these across the board pay increases that some people are calling for it will just make the current inflation challenges - which I am hoping and expecting are temporary - it'll make them worse.

“It will drive inflation even higher, and it will make inflation permanent as we saw during the 1970s when the wages chased up inflation - it became circular like a dog chasing its tail. So, I don't think that's the right response to the inflation challenges that we face and that applies across the entire economy.”

It comes as doctors called for a reversal to a "30% pay cut" and raised the prospect of strike action to force the Government's hand.

Their call comes on the back of the RMT's rail strikes over pay and conditions disputes and the walkout by barristers over legal aid – while British Airways staff at Heathrow also intend to take action.

The British Medical Association's [BMA] annual meeting in Brighton heard that doctors' pay fell up to 30% against the RPI [a prices index] since 2008.

One consultant said she was "struggling to survive" as a single parent.

Delegates at the conference mandated the BMA to "achieve pay restoration to 2008 value for its members within the next five years".

"Pay restoration is the right, just and moral thing to do, but it is a significant demand and it won't be easy to win," said Dr Emma Runswick, who presented the motion to the conference.

"Every part of the BMA needs to plan for how to achieve this.

Strike action will be another issue for health secretary Sajid Javid
Strike action will be another issue for health secretary Sajid Javid. Picture: Getty

"But I'm not foolish, I know that it's likely that industrial action will be required to move the governments on this issue."

She added: "It is outrageous that our pay has been cut by 30%.

"It is outrageous that doctors today are unable to afford mortgages and are delaying starting families due to falling pay.

"It is outrageous that our pay has been cut and it is sensible that we demand it back."

Read more: Barristers walk out of courts in strike over pay with over 1,000 cases affected each day

Dr Runswick added: "All around us workers are coming together in trade unions and winning big - last month bin men in Manchester 22%; Gatwick airport workers won a 21% pay increase two weeks ago; and in March cleaners and porters at Croydon hospital won a 24% pay rise.

"Those workers got together and used a key tool that trade unions have - the ability to collectively organise, collectively negotiate and collectively withdraw our labour... vote for this motion and I'll see you on the picket lines."

Doctors could end up joining rail workers on the picket lines
Doctors could end up joining rail workers on the picket lines. Picture: Getty

The possibility of frontline doctors striking will add to the Government's woes.

It refused to intervene and budge enough to stop rail strikes going ahead and grinding most of Britain's rail network to a halt as it called for reforms on the rail network.

Barristers also took action on Monday in a dispute over legal aid funding.

Reports have suggested NHS and teaching staff have also grown restless – and combined with striking workers at Heathrow, fears of a summer of discontent are growing.

Boris Johnson's government tried to shift the blame for the industrial action during the rail strikes on to Labour, trying to tie the party to the disruption, while Labour blamed the Government for allowing problems to reach the point where workers are walking out.