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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

On the health front

by New Worker correspondent

IN THE NHS and local government industrial action is also on the cards. Ninety per cent of Unite members voted on a 25 per cent turnout in NHS England to reject what it calls the government’s “grossly inadequate” three per cent pay award for this year. This compares with a 4.8 RPI inflation rate and so means a pay cut, a situation which has been going on for the last 11 years of Tory rule. For some workers this has meant a 19 per cent fall in real pay, which just goes to show that claps on the doorstep do not pay the bills. The offer falls far short of Unite’s demand for a £3,000 per year rise or 15 per cent, whichever is greater, for all health sector workers.

As a result, the 100,000 workers represented by Unite are beginning plans for a programme of targeted industrial action, in liaison with other NHS unions. Most of these voting, 84 per cent, were in favour of some form of industrial action.

Unite’s General Secretary Sharon Graham said: “Our members in the NHS in England have voted overwhelmingly to show their distain at what is effectively another pay cut for those who cared for the dying and sick during the pandemic.”

The union’s National Officer for Health, Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, added: “Today, Unite’s national health committee agreed a campaign of targeted industrial action and days of protest into the winter and beyond in the continuing campaign for pay justice for NHS workers, despite the barriers and restrictions of the 2016 Trade Union Act. Our campaign has great public support.”

This follows hard on the heels of similar consultative ballots amongst both nurses belonging to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and other health workers in Unison. RCN members voted by 92 per cent in England and 94 per cent in Wales to reject the offer as unacceptable.

In Northern Ireland there is likely to be a three per cent offer. In Scotland an offer of four per cent has been made, only to be rejected forcefully. The RCN is holding out for 12.5 per cent.

RCN’s General Secretary Pat Cullen said: “We are placing the matter back in the hands of politicians and asking what they are going to do next. Faced with this result, they can signal they intend to listen and do the right thing.” That will put fear of God into the Cabinet.

Over at Unison, 80 per cent of its voting members in England were against the three per cent and as a result they will be balloting for industrial action. Unison wants a £2,000 across-the-board increase, which it says will persuade enough low-paid NHS staff to stay to keep the institution afloat at a time of drastically increased demand.

Unison’s head of health Sara Gorton said: “With the lowest paid health workers hit the hardest, the government is doing the opposite of levelling up. Ministers must put this right.”

In addition, 400,000 local government workers belonging to Unison in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have voted to reject an “inadequate” 1.75 per cent pay offer, which is far short of its original 10 per cent, lodged earlier in conjunction with GMB and Unite. They too will be balloting for strike action.