The Unite union is balloting 100,000 health workers on a derisory three-year pay award. If a yes vote is recorded, we could see the first national action over NHS pay for many years.
The government’s imposed settlement of 2.75 percent this year comes at a time when inflation is over 5 percent – prices of gas, electricity, food and petrol have risen by far more.
The government’s plan is to lock us into a three-year deal, with pay “increases” that are even lower than this years in the second and third years of the deal.
By taking action, we can give a lead to the other health service unions.
Their members were bitterly angry about this year’s pay cut. If Unite makes a stand now, this creates the opportunities for all health workers to take action together next year.
Most of us know that the problems we face go far wider than pay.
In primary care, the “commissioner-provider split” leaves our members at risk of outsourcing and privatisation. Health visitor numbers are at an all-time low, and “skill mix” is dumbing down services and cutting rates of pay.
While ancillary services have borne the brunt of privatisation and cuts for a very long time, our members in pathology and estate services are also at risk of privatisation.
The NHS as a whole is under attack – and both workers and patients are paying the price. If we can fight back against cuts in our pay, this helps to build the fight to defend jobs, working conditions and the NHS as a whole.
Unite is a very powerful union. In the NHS, we organise groups with real industrial muscle. Hospitals can’t function without laboratory staff, technicians and ancillary workers.
We owe it to ourselves and to the NHS to build this fight.