Labour First Minister Mark Drakeford has refused to commit to giving health and care workers a pay rise.

Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS had called on the First Minister to give workers in the care sector parity of pay with NHS staff and to change tax rates to give NHS staff a pay rise during today’s FMQs.

The First Minister said that “in the end, the challenge is not for government [...] as a society we have to be prepared to find the money”.

Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS said he was “disappointed” with the First Minister’s response.

Mr Price said that valuing those who “look after us at the dawn and twilight of our lives” should be the priority of “any caring nation”.

The Plaid Cymru Leader said that the Covid-19 crisis had highlighted the particular importance and “neglect” of the care sector and said that valuing care workers should begin with a “decent pay structure, comparable with other professions”.

During his leadership bid, Mark Drakeford said he would not change tax rates unless “compelled” to do so.

Mr Price argued that the “hard work of health and care workers” should be compelling enough for him to change his mind. Mr Price said that government “must show the way” and reward health and care staff.

Mr Drakeford said he would continue to “negotiate” with health unions and health boards in relation to pay and conditions. He did not commit to raising income tax rates to give NHS workers a pay rise in this Senedd term.

In February the Welsh Government promised that the lowest paid NHS staff would receive the Real Living Wage of £9.30 an hour. 

The Royal College of Nursing and thirteen health unions have written to the Prime Minister asking for discussions on an early NHS pay rise.

Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS said,

“It was deeply disappointing to hear the First Minister’s reluctance to commit to a pay rise for our hard working health and care staff.

“If the current health crisis has taught us anything, it is that valuing those who look after us at the dawn and twilight of our lives should be the priority of any caring nation.

“It has also highlighted in particular the importance of the care sector, as well as its neglect as the Health Committee’s report makes plain today. The care sector has been characterised by zero-hour contracts and low pay for decades. Pay scale research estimates the hourly rate on average to be £8.19.

“Valuing our care workers must surely start with a decent pay structure, comparable with other professions. That principle, as a first step to parity with the NHS, should now be applied now to workers in the care sector.

“Our government must show the way and reward our health and care staff. It’s the very least we can do. We can’t afford not to.