Medical secretaries, admin and clerical workers at three West Yorkshire hospitals struck today, Thursday, against redundancies and pay cuts.
The Unison union members work at Dewsbury and District Hospital, Pontefract General Infirmary and Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield.
Over 30 strikers picketed at Pinderfields Hospital. BMA and NUT union members and others joined the pickets to show solidarity with the action.
The workers face losing up to £3,000 a year—while being expected to do the jobs of people who are made redundant.
The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the hospitals, wants to claw back £24 million by next April.
Strikers won a victory before the walkout after bosses backed down on a threat not to allow them to use toilets during the strike. Medical secretaries have also been holding “picnics” outside meetings between management and union officials.
About 20 women strikers, clerical and admin workers, picketed three entrances at Pontefract General Infirmary.
One told Socialist Worker, “The trust is trying to downband staff to save money. Over 200 workers are affected.
“They are targeting mainly low paid women workers. If they get away with this they will come back and downband other workers in the future.”
Bosses brought in consultants to advise them. They charged £3.4 million for recommending job and pay cuts.
Graham Biggs, director of human resources for the Trust, has conceded, “Spending money on management consultants when we are looking to make savings will attract criticism.” As one picket put it, “They don’t care that it’s public money”.
All pickets agreed that the cuts will have a negative effect on patient care, with skills and knowledge being lost. One said they had to strike “because we have no alternative. If we don’t the quality of patient care will deteriorate permanently.”
Graham Johnson, who has been campaigning to defend the Accident and Emergency (A&E) unit at the hospital, was there supporting the picket.
He said, “In September 2011 they decided to close our A&E. We got organised with a mass petition and big public protest meetings.
“Eventually Julia Squire, the chief executive of Mid Yorkshire Hospitals, resigned. And this September the unit reopened. People power won.”
Strikers have won sympathy among other workers at the hospitals. Even management have noticed that the other workers would want to support the action.
HR boss Graham Biggs said, “We have agreed arrangements whereby staff can show their solidarity by delaying the start of their shift by 45 minutes without pay.”
Over 500 workers were recently balloted for action. Some 88 percent backed strikes while 96 percent supported action short of a strike.
Strikers plan to rally at Wakefield town hall at lunchtime and the union is considering further action.
Unison regional organiser Jim Bell said, “I feel sure this strike will only be the start of what we are prepared to do to protect members’ jobs and pay.”
Thanks to Sally Kincaid and Dave Gibson