Members of the Unison union working for the NHS have voted, disappointingly, by 64 percent to accept a three year pay deal. This offers 2.75 percent, 2.4 percent and 2.2 percent for the next three years.
The acceptance was not a surprise. Unison gave no lead, and made no recommendation either way. This cast doubts on its intention of leading a fight against endemic low pay in the NHS and had a demoralising effect on those voting.
The Royal College of Midwives, Unite and the GMB unions all recommended rejection of the deal and suggested the need for a serious fight over pay. They got massive votes for rejection.
Where branches campaigned, members voted overwhelmingly to reject the deal. Unfortunately, too few branches used the opportunity given to them to campaign for a no vote. This shows the task we still have to rebuild a left voice in health branches.
At the time the ballot started – and most people vote at the beginning of a ballot – inflation pressures were not as obvious as they are now. The deal was based on the assumption that inflation was going down, which was accepted by our negotiators.
In the last few weeks it has become to clear to all that inflation is seriously rising.
Karen Jennings, Unison’s head of health, said when the ballot result was announced, “The rising costs of everyday items such as food, fuel and energy obviously make members wary about being locked into a three-year deal.
“That is why we negotiated a re-opener clause that we will not hesitate to trigger if inflation continues to rise.”
We need to hold the Unison health executive to account on that claim. In the meantime we need to build the left in all our health branches to ensure that we are in a much better position in the future.