Health workers on strike at Southmead Hospital, Bristol in November 2014 by Tim Lezard Health unions have warned of a rolling programme of strike action in the NHS unless the government enters negotiations to enter the dispute over pay. Hundreds of tho …

Tim Lezard
Health workers on strike at Southmead Hospital, Bristol in November 2014

Health workers on strike at Southmead Hospital, Bristol in November 2014

by Tim Lezard

Health unions have warned of a rolling programme of strike action in the NHS unless the government enters negotiations to enter the dispute over pay.

Hundreds of thousands of health workers – members of the British Association of Occupational Therapists, GMB, Managers in Partnership, POA, RCM, SoR, UCATT, UNISON and Unite – yesterday took four hour’s strike action and will be working to rule for the rest of the week.

They are angry that the government has ignored the Independent Pay Review Body’s suggestion they receive a one per cent pay rise, effectively meaning they have suffered a four year pay freeze, while the cost of living has risen.

GMB national officer Rehana Azam said: “Reports from across the country are that the second wave of strike action by GMB members has been rock solid.

“Members not on shift during the four hour stoppage stood in solidarity and supported the picket lines in huge numbers. The response is a testament to how NHS staff feel about the injustice in the pay offer. GMB members are determined to get government to listen. The numbers of unions taking part in this week strike has also increased.

“Public support is growing for the NHS dispute. The NHS is under attack and NHS staff pay is under attack. Why should the government ignore an independent pay review body’s recommendation of 1% for NHS staff, whilst accepting a 11% recommendation for MPs.

“Political will in Wales and Scotland has led to NHS staff settling their pay disputes, yet we have a Westminster government wielding the axe over NHS staff and adding to the NHS crisis, that’s irresponsible.

“GMB members make up a large part of the ambulance service. It is a credit to the dedication of these front line that urgent life threatening calls continued to be responded to during this dispute because unlike the government, frontline emergency staff recognise the value of patient safety and priorities.

“GMB members are demanding that Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health gets around the table and discuss how this dispute can be resolved. GMB member’s message to him is simple – the second wave of strike action is stronger than the first, so if the Health Secretary refuses to negotiate we will have no alternative but to work alongside all health unions to announce a rolling programme of strike action.”

Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: “Yesterday’s second strike action for fair NHS pay has been strongly supported with Unite health members joined by colleagues from the country’s leading health unions at over 120 pickets across England and Northern Ireland, behind a swell of public support.

“Our members have been especially grateful for all the messages of support they’ve received from the public. They see the unfairness of the government’s decision to deny NHS staff a decent cost of living pay increase after years of pay freezes.

“The nation’s 1.35 million strong NHS workforce has been forced, reluctantly to strike for a second time after suffering a 15 per cent cut in their wages since 2010. Today also heralds the start of eight weeks of working to rule by Unite members.

“Our members are working harder and getting poorer. It doesn’t have to be this way. We are urging the health secretary to value the vital work of NHS workers who would rather be caring for patients than fighting their own poverty.

“Health secretary Jeremy Hunt cannot keep turning his back on hardworking health workers. With the Welsh government reaching a pay settlement last week, there can now be no excuses for Hunt’s continued refusal to get around the negotiating table.”

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “NHS workers don’t go on strike lightly but they do so carefully and safely. Patient safety is paramount and this is why workers stopped for just four hours.

“All we’re asking for is fair pay. And the public understand that. The growing public support for health workers is overwhelming. They understand health workers are being reasonable. We are not talking big money or bonuses here.

“It is irresponsible of the government to not even try to resolve this dispute. Their behaviour is in danger of putting patients and the public at risk.”

Click here for a report from a picket line yesterday.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
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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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