Unions across the health service are moving closer to action over pay. Mike Jackson, lead negotiator of the Unison union, which has 450,000 members in the NHS, said, 'Health workers feel a strong sense of injustice that the government has welched on a deal and is trying to impose a pay award that represents a pay cut in real terms.
'The retail price index is currently running at 4.4 percent so a 2.5 percent rise is already well below the level of inflation. Staging it has reduced its value still further.
'Our health workers deserve better and need more just to keep up with the rising cost of living.
'The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have decided not to stage the pay award, but the British government is obstinately refusing to take any action to ensure nurses and others get a decent pay award.'
The GMB, Unite and Ucatt unions have already agreed to ballot alongside Unison. Unison's health executive will meet later this week to decide on the timetable of the ballot.
The Royal College of Midwives is also set to ballot in September. The 23,000 midwives could withhold unpaid overtime, removing on average seven hours per midwife per week, which currently saves the NHS £2 million a year.
The Royal College of Nursing is currently balloting its 300,000 members about what form of industrial action they would be prepared to take.
The Unison, GMB and Unite unions say that local government employers have to make an improved offer or face a ballot for strike action.
According to Unison general secretary Dave Prentis, 'The threat of local government strike action in England, Wales and Northern Ireland moved a step closer.
We know that employers have budgeted for a rise of at least 2.5 percent – it's time for them to act responsibly and come up with a better offer or face a ballot for strike action.'
Heather Wakefield, Unison's head of local government, said, 'This is no way to treat a group of key workers who hold local communities together, care for the elderly and vulnerable, support children's learning and who are already the lowest paid group in the public sector.'
The Unison local government conference last month voted to reject 2 percent and to oppose 2.5 percent if offered.
The national executive of the NUT teachers' union met last week to set a timetable for an industrial action ballot over pay.
The union is set to ballot next term and has recommitted itself to joint action where possible with other public sector unions.