'We've beaten the bosses twice!' That was the reaction of medical secretaries in Glasgow this week as their indefinite strike action forced management to back down for the second time. The 300 medical secretaries, all low paid women workers, have shown how determined and all-out action can win. Last month, after just two days of indefinite strike action, the workers had appeared to win a victory when bosses struck a deal that conceded to their demands to be put on a higher grade.
Workers felt they had won a brilliant victory, which gave them a bigger pay rise than they could have achieved under a 'framework' agreement struck by hospital bosses and leaders of their UNISON union. But within days trust bosses reneged on the deal. They refused to implement the pay rises and backdated pay they had initially agreed.
The workers were furious, and took immediate action. They held a mass meeting and voted unanimously to walk out on indefinite strike action again.
They held a spontaneous protest outside the headquarters of their north Glasgow health trust bosses. Medical secretary Mhairi Whitton said, 'We learnt a lot and gained masses of confidence through going on strike and winning support.' Many of the workers felt that, if they had been successful once in forcing management to act, they could do it again.
They took another week of indefinite strike action-speaking at union meetings, anti-war meetings, and visiting other workplaces to raise support. The deal that was struck at the beginning of this week at the ACAS negotiating service is even slightly better than the first deal they won last month! If implemented it means that all the medical secretaries will achieve the higher grade they were demanding, and will get pay and increments backdated to October 2000.
The medical secretaries voted overwhelmingly to suspend their strike on Monday of this week. The workers are going back more confident and determined to hold management to account.
'We feel vindicated by our action, and are determined that management will implement this deal,' was the comment of one medical secretary. Every low paid worker in the NHS should take heart from the medical secretaries' victory.
The medical secretaries' victory shows that all-out indefinite action can win solidarity, and force management to take workers' action seriously and back down.