NHS staff “on the frontline” of the fight against Covid have been balloted over strike action amid demands for a bigger pay rise than the government is offering.

A trade union set up a ballot box outside the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton following the government’s offer of a three per cent pay rise to nurses, paramedics, consultants and dentists in England.

The GMB Union, which campaigns for better working conditions, is planning to reject the government’s proposed pay rise and demand an increase of 15 per cent.

GMB regional organiser Gary Palmer, from Brighton, said: “There is no money to be made for staff who worked throughout Covid. They were heroes long before Covid and will remain heroes after Covid is gone.

“It is just not good enough.

“If the government is not willing to listen, then we will move forward to take people through the industrial process and go on strike. Three per cent is not enough, it will not help them pay their rent or feed their children, and they deserve so much more.

“They have been overworked, under-appreciated and people have had enough, they could earn more money in the supermarkets. Fifteen per cent is not a pay rise. It is reparation for pay cuts and missed pay over the last ten years.”

The Argus: GMB protest outside Royal Sussex HospitalGMB protest outside Royal Sussex Hospital

Similar ballot boxes have been in place at hospitals across Sussex and the South East ahead of the deadline on September 17.

Workers are being asked if they accept or reject the three per cent rise. They will be contacted with details on how they can vote.

John Donovan, GMB representative at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, said: “It is not a good deal at all. People are not applying for jobs at the hospital as they can earn more money elsewhere.

“The NHS staff need a pay rise – we are here saving lives, and if we are not here, there will be more problems down the road.”

NHS staff are set to receive a three per cent pay rise, backdated to April 2020 after the government accepted a set of independent recommendations.

This pay rise means the average nurse will earn an extra £1,000 a year, while many porters and cleaners will receive £540 more annually.

The Argus: Gary Palmer at the GMB protest outside Royal Sussex HospitalGary Palmer at the GMB protest outside Royal Sussex Hospital

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “NHS staff are rightly receiving a pay rise this year despite the wider public sector pay pause, in recognition of their extraordinary efforts.

“We asked the independent pay review bodies for their recommendations, and I’m pleased to accept them in full, with a three per cent pay rise for all staff in scope, from doctors and nurses to paramedics and porters.

“We will back the NHS as we focus our efforts on getting through this pandemic and tackling the backlog of other health problems that has built up.

“I will continue to do everything I can to support all those in our health service who are working so tirelessly.”

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