Socialist Worker

Health workers must throw out pay deal

by Karen Reissmann, chair of Manchester mental health Unison branch
Issue No. 2100

After two consecutive years of pay cuts the government is telling more than a million health workers that we must tighten our belts yet again with our new pay deal.

The deal that it is now offering us will mean an effective pay cut for each of the next three years. We must throw it out.

From next week the Unison union will be balloting around 500,000 members in the NHS to ask our opinion of the offer.

The national leadership has decided that it cannot recommend the deal and is allowing local branches to come to their own view on it.

My branch, like many others around the country, has decided that it should be rejected, and that we are going to campaign for a no vote on that basis.

The government is offering just 2.75 percent in the first year, 2.4 percent in the second year, and 2.25 percent in the third year.

Beyond that there are some small changes to the pay banding system that will bring some improvements for some workers.

They are worth just 0.2 percent on the pay bill.

But they cannot offset the general effect of three years in which our pay will be getting progressively worse.

Inflation, as measured by the Retail Price Index (RPI), is currently running at 4.1 percent.

It’s likely to get much higher over the next few months with housing costs soaring, fuel bills going through the roof and food prices rising steadily.

A “rise” of 8 percent over three years turns out to be a big pay cut once you take inflation into account.

Unison leaders say that they have negotiated a clause in the offer that will mean that if inflation is higher than expected, the deal may be reopened.

But there are no firm commitments in that process and no identified trigger point at which the offer would be increased.

It will be up to the Pay Review Body and, even worse, secretary of state Alan Johnson to decide if the pay deal should be reviewed.

If we reject it there will then be a separate ballot on whether we want to take industrial action to win a better offer.

Some people say that health workers will never strike, but that is not true.

Health workers are desperate for change. If enough local branches run serious campaigns to win better pay, they can connect with the growing mood of anger over cuts, privatisation, stress and overwork.

A resounding no in the ballot would be an excellent way to start that campaign.

Ballot papers will be posted to addresses on 15 May and must be returned by 5 June

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Article information

Tue 6 May 2008, 18:23 BST
Issue No. 2100
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