Delegates to the Unison union’s health conference last week rebuked their leaders for seeking acceptance of the government’s three-year below-inflation pay offer.
The Department of Health has told more than a million people working in the NHS that they are to be offered pay rises of just 2.75 percent this year, 2.4 percent in year two (2009) and 2.25 in year three (2010). This is well below the RPI measure of inflation.
Despite Unison’s senior leadership arguing to accept the offer, the union’s health executive was evenly split on whether to recommend it. Eventually it put a motion to the conference calling for a ballot without a recommendation.
In a heated debate those in favour of acceptance of the deal could barely muster any enthusiasm for their position.
In contrast, those who spoke against pointed to the growing anger among millions of public sector workers over pay and talked about the possibility of united action.
The conference eventually voted by the narrowest of margins – 214,059 for, 201,001 against – to accept the executive’s “no recommendation” position.
In a change from last year, the health executive agreed that individual branches will be allowed to take their own position on the offer, and use branch funds to campaign on it.
Voting is due to start in May. It is essential that health trade unionists now produce clear explanations of why the offer should be rejected – and use them as the basis for the widest possible campaign over pay.