THE executive of the health sector of public sector union Unison delivered a surprising blow to the government's attempt to drive through a rotten three-year pay deal for NHS staff. The government wants all health workers to accept a three year 10 percent pay deal, worth just 3.2 percent a year.
It has tied this insulting pay deal to its new pay package for health workers, 'Agenda for Change'. In a surprising vote, the executive agreed to argue to submit a pay claim for all workers who are not covered by the pay review bodies, including many low paid workers.
The claim is for £2,000 or 10 percent this year, whichever is greater, and for a reduction in the working week to 35 hours. The vote was 19 votes to 17, with many executive members usually loyal to the government voting to submit the pay claim. Yunus Bakhsh, a member of the United Left who is on the national executive, explains:
'It's clear that people usually loyal to New Labour are furious with health secretary Alan Milburn for trying to tie this rotten 10 percent deal to Agenda for Change. It is going to be months before the balloting process on Agenda for Change goes through. Low paid health workers need a pay rise now.'
DOMESTIC, portering and catering staff at Homerton University Hospital in east London have voted overwhelmingly for strikes against their low pay and rotten conditions. The 200 staff are employed by private contractor ISS Mediclean. Mass meetings saw nearly two thirds of the workforce come together and vote by over 90 percent for action.
A formal strike ballot will now begin. At present staff employed by ISS Mediclean at Homerton get as little as £4.45 an hour, have no London weighting, no overtime rate, no company sick pay and no pension.
ISS Mediclean, a multinational with profits of £137 million in 2001, has consistently refused to hold proper talks with the union over pay and conditions. Now it is going to pay the price.
In the run-up to the meetings dozens of workers joined the union. We are now determined to win the ballot and start action.
DIANA SWINGLER, Unison branch chair, Homerton University Hospital