UNISON members outside RD&E Hospital in Exeter taking part in national NHS pay strike in October 2014 by Tim Lezard Hundreds of thousands of NHS workers are today taking strike action over pay. Members of the British Association of Occupational The …

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

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

by Tim Lezard

Hundreds of thousands of NHS workers are today taking strike action over pay.

Members of the British Association of Occupational Therapists, GMB, Managers in Partnership, POA, RCM, SoR, UCATT, UNISON and Unite are on strike after the government refused to implement a 1% pay rise recommended by the independent NHS Pay Review Body.

They will be walking out for four hours from 7am, with many working to rule for the rest of the week.

And UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis has warned further strikes will take place unless the government resolves the dispute.

He said: “The fact almost all health unions are taking part in the industrial action should ring alarm bells in Whitehall.

“The anger is spreading and so is the public support for health workers’ cause.  The strength of feeling is far from fading and the dispute far from going away.

“All the government has done so far is threaten workers with job cuts.

“If the Secretary of State seriously thinks staff are the NHS’ best asset then he needs to treat them fairly. We are only asking for decent pay for the hard working people the government say they care so much about.

“There will be plenty of opportunities for Jeremy Hunt to go in trusts around the country to meet with staff who will be working to rule, taking away the goodwill the NHS relies on so much.

“NHS workers in Scotland and Wales will all be getting a 1% pay rise and the Living Wage. So why is the Secretary of State so determined to penalise workers in England?

“The government and NHS Employers need to engage in meaningful talks about how to resolve this dispute. We are prepared to keep up the pressure through the winter and up until the General Election.”

GMB national officer Rehana Azam said: “We regret having to inconvenience NHS users again, but the intransigence of the government and employers leaves us no choice.

“We are open to talks but the Health Secretary still refuses to meet the unions. This is not the way to go about dispute resolution. We’ve managed to get a settlement in Wales in part because the Welsh government was prepared to enter into dialogue. Jeremy Hunt needs to get round the table and make more money available for a settlement.

“This dispute arose when the government overruled the independent NHS Pay Review Body, which had recommended an across-the-board pay rise. Health workers have already endured several years of pay freezes and caps. They are understandably angry and frustrated at the cavalier way they have been treated.

“The planned action will undoubtedly cause widespread disruption to NHS services. However, we have sent formal notification of this action to all affected NHS employers so that they can work out essential cover requirements to ensure patient safety.

“GMB has agreed at regional level 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.”

RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick said: “This is not about our members demanding huge banker-sized bonuses, or asking for the similarly large bonuses and pay increases given to many senior managers in the NHS. It is about our members having to fight just to get the very modest 1% pay award recommended by the NHS Pay Review Body. It is also an award which still lags way behind the rising cost of living and will see our members earning the same in 2016 as they did in 2013.

“As before 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% pay rise.”

SoR chief executive officer Richard Evans said: “The four hour stoppage in October and today’s action are the first time since 1982 that radiographers have gone on strike over pay.

“The anger that they and other NHS workers feel is very strong. The devolved governments in Scotland and Wales have come to an agreement with their health workers. Why are the administrations in England and Northern Ireland not even capable of meeting with the unions to discuss a creative way forward?

“Radiographers do not want to hurt the people that they serve. Steps have been taken to minimise the impact on patients and their families.”

 


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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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