Health unions had reacted angrily to plans by Liz Truss to cut £8.8 billion from regional public sector pay, before they were dropped.
The Conservative MP, who is vying to be the next next Prime Minister, has scrapped her leadership pledge to cut public sector pay for workers outside of southeast England just 12 hours after she announced the plan.
On Monday (1 August) she had unveiled plans to introduce “regional boards” where “civil servant pay can be adjusted in line with the actual areas where civil servants work”. The release said this would potentially save up to £8.8 billion per year.
But the South West Norfolk MP faced huge backlash from fellow Tories, many of whom argued it would mean lower pay for millions of workers outside of London. A spokesperson for Ms Truss said on Tuesday (2 August) that there has been a “wilful misrepresentation of our campaign”, adding: “Currently levels of public sector pay will absolutely be maintained.”
Health unions had responded with anger at the proposals.
Royal College of Nursing general secretary and chief executive, Pat Cullen, said: "This is an attack on NHS values and a direct assault on its professionals. Undermining trade unions and their members, diversity and employment rights are warped priorities when Ms Truss herself says hospitals are crumbling.
"Thinking that salaries for nurses and support workers deserve cutting further should sound the death knell for her political ambitions.
"There are already tens of thousands of unfilled nursing jobs and cutting salaries will drive many more out of the profession. These shortages mean that patient care is suffering.
"National salaries are key to a national service. A move to regional pay in the NHS was defeated ten years ago and I give notice to Ms Truss that I would fight her just as strongly this time. Facilities time and partnership working between the NHS and the unions of its staff are healthy and must be defended too.
"This will be fresh in the minds of nursing staff when they vote on taking strike action in our upcoming industrial action ballot – enough is enough.
"This comes on the very same day that households across Britain heard they should expect an annual energy bill of £3,615 this winter in the latest grim analysis by energy consultants. Our members are struggling and this announcement makes it harder."
Alice Sorby, director for employment relations at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), told N: "The RCM is committed to nationally agreed terms and conditions, this is the most fair, transparent and equitable system.
“We should be seeing significant pay rises, not pay cuts for midwives and maternity support workers to make up for many years of pay stagnation that sees them working ever harder yet seeing less and less in their pockets as the cost-of-living rockets.
“We are currently seeing the number of midwives working in the NHS fall in each region in England and there is a retention crisis across the NHS, reducing pay would simply worsen, not help the serious and growing workforce crisis in the NHS.
“This is simply another signal that the person who may be our next Prime Minister does not value NHS staff, the incredible work they do and the dedication with which they do it. "