Socialist Worker

Striking to defend the NHS in Manchester

by Yuri Prasad
Issue No. 2036

Health workers on strike in Manchester on Wednesday (Pic: Caronline Bedale)

Health workers on strike in Manchester on Wednesday (Pic: Caronline Bedale)


Over 250 workers at Manchester's mental health and social care trust joined a one-day strike on Wednesday of this week in protest at proposed cuts that will mean job losses and decimation of the service.

The community nurses, mental health nurses, occupational therapists and support workers who are members of the Unison union formed lively pickets at each one of the trust's main sites.

Union activists estimate that only a handful of Unison members crossed picket lines that involved up to three quarters of the union's membership at the trust.

Maria O'Hare is part of a team of mental health nurses based at North Manchester General Hospital and has worked for the NHS for 22 years. While on picketing duty, she told Socialist Worker about how the cuts would affect her and her colleagues.

'My job involves caring for older patients with mental health problems like Alzheimer's disease,' she said.

'The cuts – or reorganisation as management call them – will tear my team apart. They want to replace four highly trained and experienced mental health nurses, one quarter of the current total, with just one untrained social worker.

'That means extremely vulnerable people, their carers and families are going to end up without proper support. I don't know how some of them will be able to cope.

'There is a real possibility that some of them will end up on the streets, where they will be a danger to themselves,' she said.

Maria's team is just one among many that will be hit if the cuts package goes through. Like everyone else that Socialist Worker spoke to on the picket lines, she thought long and hard before taking action but she was rightly proud of herself and her colleagues for having the courage to strike in defence of the NHS.

'I had to get my nine year old daughter up at 5am this morning in order to be here. But I wouldn't have missed it for the world,' she said.

Mental health workers in Manchester are planning further one-day strikes on 7 and 14 February to be followed by a three-day strike starting on 20 February.

'We are all going to lose six days pay out of next month's wages,' Karen Reissmann, Unison branch secretary, told Socialist Worker.

'For many people here, that is an awful lot of money. But as a union, we are extremely determined and we must win this fight. We are counting on trade unionists across Britain, especially those in the health service, to raise money for our hardship fund in solidarity with us.

'With your support, we are going to win,' she said.

Messages of support to karen@reissmann.fsnet.co.uk or to the union office, 70 Manchester Road, Chorlton, Manchester M21 9UN


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News
Sat 3 Feb 2007, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2036
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