Socialist Worker

Lack of leadership means NHS pay deal accepted

by Ian Thomas
Issue No. 2069

Hundreds of thousands of health workers are going to receive below-inflation pay awards after union leaders decided on a compromise with the government.

Health workers in Britain were offered 2.5 percent, but in England that offer was reduced to 1.9 percent by phasing it in two stages.

Unison union leaders committed themselves to fight for an above inflation pay rise at this year’s health conference, but later said that marginal improvements to the original offer in England meant that it should be put out to ballot.

Unison’s health executive decided not to issue a recommendation in the ballot, which many people took as a sign of acceptance that this was the best that could be achieved.

It then told branches that it was against union rules to campaign for a no vote.

The propaganda that accompanied the ballot paper made many of the lowest paid believe that they were going to get a £400 increase, plus a 2.5 percent rise. In fact all workers in England got around 2 percent.

Unfortunately most members believed that as the union leadership was not actively suggesting a campaign of industrial action, it was futile to vote to throw out the offer.

Therefore they voted by two to one to accept, and all other health unions have also accepted the deal.

The 22 percent turnout in the Unison ballot reflects a widespread lack of enthusiasm for the settlement.

It is also true that in most places the left inside the health service is too weak, and too disconnected from the shop floor.

Everyone who works in the NHS reports a mood of anger and fear in their workplace. For that anger to turn into action, the left must take the lead.

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Article information

Tue 18 Sep 2007, 19:15 BST
Issue No. 2069
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