The government’s recent “improvement” to the pay offer to health workers in England is being greeted with widespread derision and dismay – particularly in Unison, the largest union in the NHS.
There is a growing mood to reject the revised offer in the union’s consultative ballot that opened this week.
While workers in the NHS elsewhere in Britain have had the original 2.5 percent offer imposed in a single stage, in England the offer remains staggered, thereby reducing its value to below 2.5 percent.
The department of health has trumpeted the new offer, saying that those on the lowest grades will gain up to £400 a year.
But once the staging is taken into account, that figure falls to just £269.76.
And after inflation, the “pay rise” becomes a whopping £300 pay cut.
For clinical staff on higher grades, the new money adds up to little more that £38 a year.
Many Unison branches have decided to recommend their members reject the revised offer – despite the union’s health executive deciding to put the offer out to ballot without any recommendation as to whether to accept or reject it.
This has caused anger from some in Unison’s leadership, who, being desperate to ensure a strike-free NHS for Gordon Brown, are hoping for acceptance of the new offer.
Karen Jennings, Unison’s head of health, last week sent a circular to all health branches in which she told them to ensure that they “promote and implement the agreed policy”.
She followed this up with a second circular that stated that any branch that made a recommendation would be in contravention of the “Democracy in Unison” rules, and would be open to disciplinary action.
Jon Rogers, a member of the union’s national executive, has challenged these statements.
He says that a similar case is still under review, and that as yet there is no rule to prevent branches campaigning for a no vote in the ballot.
It is now vital that health service activists take the campaign to reject the offer into the wards and offices.