NHS staff in fresh strike over pay

Published: Thursday 30th October 2014 by The News Editor

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The Government is facing a fresh strike by health workers including nurses, midwives, domestic staff and radiographers in the bitter row over pay.

Members of 11 unions will take action, with most walking out for four hours in England on November 24 in another show of protest at the coalition’s controversial decision not to accept a recommended 1% pay rise for all NHS staff.

A series of strikes have been held in recent weeks by different groups of staff, ranging from psychiatric nurses and cleaners to midwives and porters.

Unions said next month’s stoppage will be “stronger than ever”, warning that the commitment of health workers was now at “breaking point”.

The strike on the morning of November 24 will be followed by other forms of industrial action.

Christina McAnea, national officer of Unison, who chairs the NHS trade unions, said: “The next set of industrial action will be even stronger as more unions are joining in.

“Health workers care for patients and their families every day of the year, often when they are at their most vulnerable or distressed.

“The NHS depends on the goodwill and commitment of the workforce and this is now at breaking point.

“The Government has made no attempt to resolve this dispute and staff have been left with no alternative but to take more industrial action. Jeremy Hunt (Health Secretary) needs to realise that this dispute is not going away. All we are asking for is fair pay.”

Trade unions taking part in the action are: Unison, the Royal College of Midwives, the building workers’ union Ucatt, the Society of Radiographers, the British Association of Occupational Therapists, the GMB, Unite, Managers in Partnership, the Prison Officers Association, Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA), and the British Dietetic Association (BDA).

The HCSA and BDA will stage action short of a strike between November 25 and 30.

The GMB said its members in Northern Ireland will also be taking industrial action.

National officer Rehana Azam said: “For a second week NHS staff will be taking industrial action over pay. We regret having to inconvenience NHS users again, but the intransigence of the Government and employers leaves us no choice.

“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 are sending formal notification of this action to all affected NHS employers so that they can work out essential cover requirements to ensure patient safety.

“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. Jeremy Hunt needs to get round the table and make more money available for a settlement.”

Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: “It is crystal clear that Jeremy Hunt and his Government have pulled down the shutters on talks to improve the ever-eroding incomes of the 1.35 million-strong NHS workforce.

“It is a snub to the dedicated and hard-working health professionals that sustain the NHS day in, day out, 365 days a year, as demand for services soar.

“The stonewalling of Hunt has energised our members to build on the industrial action they took earlier this month.

“Our members are furious that the Government vetoed the 1% pay rise, as recommended by the independent Pay Review Body.

“Not one of the 1.35 million workforce is getting a cost of living increase and 600,000 are not even getting the 1% ‘pocket money’ offer.

“Our members were buoyed up by the support they received from the public when they took action this month. Their brave stand certainly rattled ministers.

“Jeremy Hunt continues to mouth platitudes about how much he values NHS staff – and then refuses to talk to the health unions about how to rectify the stark fact that staff pay has been eroded by up to 15% since the Coalition came to power in 2010.

“Hunt likes to see himself as Mr Bountiful, when he is, in fact, Mr Scrooge. He needs to get around the table and talk constructively with the unions, otherwise more industrial action is on the cards.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “We are disappointed by this decision – NHS staff are our greatest asset and we want to make the current pay system fairer, which is why we have put forward proposals that would ensure all staff would get at least a 1% pay rise this year and next, but these have been rejected by the unions.

“We have been clear that we can’t afford a consolidated pay rise in addition to increments without risking frontline jobs.”

Published: Thursday 30th October 2014 by The News Editor

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