France’s new prime minister on Monday thanked French health workers for being “on the front line” in the fight against COVID-19 as he gave the green light to pay rises worth €8 billion.
This translates to a salary increase of around €183 per month and came about after seven weeks of heated negotiations and large-scale protests that turned violent in Paris.
French medical staff were applauded nightly from windows and balconies across the country while citizens were on lockdown.
While the British public too was rousing in its support for National Health Service (NHS) workers with a weekly “clap for carers”, how are they being treated compared to their French counterparts?
Public ‘expects to see NHS staff rewarded’
Ahead of the NHS’s 72nd anniversary in early July, 14 unions representing over 1.3 million NHS workers wrote to the government calling for talks to begin concerning a pay rise recognising health workers for their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gustavo Pendred, a nurse practitioner at University Hospital Lewisham told Euronews: “Many staff groups in the NHS have been deserving of a pay rise for a while, and I think their hard work and flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic has only further highlighted that.”
Health workers are coming to the end of a three-year pay deal, which was worth 6.5% and did not include doctors, and the unions are pushing for a fair pay increase arguing that it would show how much they are valued.
Before the deal, NHS staff had seen seven years of pay freezes or 1% rises under David Cameron’s government.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), one of the letter’s signatories, said the average salary for a nurse has fallen by 8% in real terms since 2010 when the Conservatives came into power.
“Health workers around the globe have been on the front line in the fight against the virus. They will continue to be for months to come,” Sara Gorton, head of health for UNISON, a large-scale public services union, told Euronews.
She said the pay rise would “see staff receive a welcome wage boost by Christmas, a move that would help the ailing economy and prove popular with the public”.
The NHS’ pay scale is structured by “bands” ranging from band 1 to 9, with pay starting at £18.005 (roughly €19,797) for the likes of drivers and nursery assistants and going up to £104,927 (roughly €115,378) for roles such as chief finance manager and directors.
Experience is also considered and supplements are provided that take into account factors such as the additional cost of living for those in and around London.
Euronews has contacted the UK’s Department of Health for comment on the prospect of a pay rise for health workers but had not received a response at the time of publication.
Free parking ‘cannot continue indefinitely’
The UK’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, said in March that the government would cover parking costs for NHS staff at hospitals in England, adding that they were “going above and beyond every day”.
But there have been hints that this measure will not continue, with reports suggesting it would be dropped as the pandemic eases in the country.
Health minister Edward Argar told the i newspaper on July 7 that “the provision of free parking for National Health Service staff by NHS trusts has not ended” but added that it “has only been made possible by support from local authorities and independent providers and this support cannot continue indefinitely”.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson would not confirm to Euronews that the free parking measure would end for staff, but told Euronews in an emailed statement: “We have been clear that during the pandemic free hospital parking will be available for NHS and care staff, and this remains the case.”
The comments were met by backlash from trade unions who are pushing for free parking to be made permanent for staff.
This isn’t an opinion shared by all NHS staff with Pendred saying his “issues with staff parking aren’t rated to payment,” citing “the way permits were allocated, poorly maintained car parks, and minimal security” as bigger problems.
“Personally I don’t mind paying for parking, I would rather patients and visitors were able to park for free,” he added.
Daily parking rates in NHS hospitals can be as high as £77 (roughly €84) in London and go up to £20 (roughly €22) outside the capital.