Socialist Worker

100,000 to ballot for strike in the NHS

by Gill George, Unite executive council (pc)
Issue No. 2122

The Unite union is to ballot its members in the NHS to strike over pay. The ballot will open on 28 October and close on 12 November. Members will be asked to vote on strike action and on industrial action short of strike action, with a recommendation to vote yes to both questions.

Unite has well over 100,000 members in health, bringing together the old Amicus and T&G sections. We’ve also got real industrial muscle.

Members include laboratory staff, the technicians who maintain essential equipment, porters and domestics. We have the power to stop routine work across much of the NHS.

Last week’s Unite health sector national committee agreed on the need to provide emergency cover under union control, to safeguard patients in emergency situations.

There’s been no national action in our health sector for a good number of years. We’re out of practice when it comes to holding meetings, leafleting, talking to members and so on. Importantly, though, this is starting to shift.

This is a vital dispute for us. If we don’t fight, we’re locked into three years of pay cuts of 2.75 percent in the first year, 2.4 in the second and 2.25 in the third, while the price of food and fuel goes sky high.

We’ll pay in the here and now, and for the rest of our lives as lower pay feeds into lower pensions.

Our dispute matters for all public sector workers too. If Unite fights on pay this year, it opens the door to united action across NHS unions next year.

The government is all too willing to bail out the bankers – what’s wrong with looking out for the people who provide essential services?

And if we fight on pay, that can boost the confidence of health workers to stand up to the privatisation that’s tearing the NHS apart.

This is a fight that’s worth having and a fight we need to win.

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Article information

Tue 7 Oct 2008, 18:07 BST
Issue No. 2122
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