RCM and UNISON members outside RD&E Hospital in Exeter taking part in national NHS pay strike in October 2014 by Tim Lezard Unions representing more than half a million NHS workers in England are today on strike between 7 and 11am, followed by four …

Tim Lezard Europe, UK, GMB, UCATT, UK unions, Unison, Unite,
UNISON members outside RD&E Hospital in Exeter taking part in national NHS pay strike in October 2014

RCM and UNISON members outside RD&E Hospital in Exeter taking part in national NHS pay strike in October 2014

by Tim Lezard

Unions representing more than half a million NHS workers in England are today on strike between 7 and 11am, followed by four days of action short of strike action from tomorrow.

The members of the British Association of Occupational Therapists, GMB, Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association, Managers in Partnership, RCM, UCATT, UNISON and Unite are taking action as a result of the government’s decision to ignore the Independent PRB recommendation to award a 1% pay rise to all staff.

Instead, the government took the divisive decision to only award a 1% pay rise for those on top of their pay band, denying a paltry 1% increase to 60% of NHS workers.

Trade union chair of the NHS Staff Council, Christina McAnea, said: “This is the first time in 32 years that NHS workers take industrial action over pay.  And for many, it will be the first time. Up and down the country, hundreds of thousands of workers are out fighting for fair pay and for the NHS.

“The fact that so many unions representing a range of NHS workers are taking action today or preparing to join future actions should send a clear message to the government.

“The NHS relies on the good will of its workers but we know that a demotivated workforce is bad for patients. The government needs to start negotiating with us and reconsider their pay policy.”

GMB national officer Rehana Azam said: “NHS Staff take action with a heavy heart as their only priority is to deliver the best patient care, quality and outcomes. Even after staff voted to take strike action and action short of a strike the Secretary of State for Health has refused to meet with the unions representing NHS staffs.

“GMB has agreed with Ambulance Services that life-threatening and certain other categories of call (such as renal dialysis and Oncology patients) will be responded to by GMB ambulance crews during the forthcoming dispute in the NHS.  In addition, GMB has agreed that the major and hazardous incident team will remain on duty in case a major incident occurs.

“The strike has arisen because of the government’s overruling of the independent, NHS Pay Review Body’s (PRB) recommendation for a 1% consolidated pay rise across the board for all NHS staff.

“The intervention by government means that the 1% will only be available to approximately 40% of NHS employees and it will not be consolidated in to basic pay.

“Government intervention is in stark contrast to its view when the independent Pay Review Body for MP’s recommended that MPs should receive a pay rise of 11%.

“In that case the government said it could not interfere with the recommendation because it had come from an independent body. Our members are angry as there seems to be one rule for MP’s and a different rule for everyone else.

“Members have seen workload increasing and colleagues being overworked. When the cost of living has increased members have endured not just pay freezes but pay cuts, as NHS pay rates are frozen to April 2013 rates.

“Jeremy Hunt claims that he withholding the NHS Pay Review Body recommendation s because the cost of implementation will mean further job cuts. NHS Staff are not convinced this is the case as they know the true cost of what is happening to the NHS.

“£3 billion was wasted on top down NHS reorganisation while £13.5 billion of NHS services are tendered to the private sector and over £1 billion NHS money has been returned to Treasury. This demonstrates the choices Jeremy Hunt is making over NHS Staff pay.”

RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick, whose members are going on strike for the first time in the organisation’s history,  said: “At a time when MPs are set for a 10 per cent pay hike, we’re told that midwives don’t deserve even a below-inflation 1 per cent rise. And politicians wonder why the public does not afford them more respect. It feels to a great many people, including midwives, that there is one rule for them and another rule for everybody else.

“The independent panel of experts who advise the government on NHS pay recommended a 1 per cent pay rise for midwives, nurses, paramedics and other NHS staff. Unfortunately, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt rejected that recommendation, and he and the employers decided that midwives and others won’t get a pay rise this year.

“I ask them to think of the pressure midwives have been under for years, made worse by a shortage of staff that never goes away. I ask them to think of the responsibility midwives have every single day, caring for both mother and baby. And I ask them to think how it feels to those same midwives when, despite all that, they are told they aren’t worth a 1 per cent pay rise.

“Midwives are caring people who often work long hours of unpaid overtime just to keep our understaffed, under-resourced maternity services running in the midst of a decade-long baby boom. They deserve this modest 1 per cent pay rise.

“Although midwives are set to strike across England this Monday, from 7am until 11am, in every area our local representatives have worked with hospitals to ensure safe services will be available to women in need of urgent care, such as those in labour. Our dispute is not with the women for whom midwives care, it is with employers telling midwives they are not worth a 1 per cent pay rise.”

Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: “This is a double first in the dreadful mistreatment of our NHS by this government. This is the first time an independent pay review body has been dismissed and the first time core NHS professions have been so desperate that they will walk off hospital wards.

“It is quite clear that whatever warm words the prime minister mouths about our NHS that he and his health secretary are not prepared to offer the workforce a fair deal on pay.

“Instead they show disgraceful contempt for a dedicated workforce who have lost up to 15 per cent in pay since 2010 and face being denied a one per cent pay increase this year.

“This industrial action could have been averted, but health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s continued refusal to sit down with health unions to try and find a solution has prompted widespread anger.

“Jeremy Hunt needs to get around the negotiating table otherwise he risks abdicating his responsibility not just to the NHS’s 1.4 million staff, but to the public who value their NHS and expect their government to do so too.”

Member of the Society of Radiographers will walk out for hour hours next Monday and will also work to rule for the rest of that week.



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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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