AN IMPORTANT meeting for all health workers is set to take place in Birmingham this weekend. Every worker in the health service should try to come, whether you're a porter or a nurse, a cleaner or a receptionist, work in a hospital or in the community, are in Unison, GMB, Amicus or any other health union.
The rank and file newspaper Health Worker has called the meeting to debate and discuss the government's new pay package for NHS workers, Agenda for Change. This is the government's attempt to drive through 'modernisation' in the NHS, its codeword for cuts and harder work.
To cap it all, the whole package is tied to a three- year pay deal of just 3.2 percent a year-an insult to the people who keep the health service going. Agenda for Change will do nothing for some of the lowest paid health workers, those who work for private companies which rip off the health service. Where I work some of the porters earn under £4 an hour and do not get sick pay and full benefits.
Agenda for Change also does nothing to redress staff shortages and the huge pressures on frontline staff. Saturday's meeting is the first chance that many rank and file health workers will have to thrash out all the issues around Agenda for Change. It is also a unique opportunity for rank and file activists from all the health unions to get together.
The government wants to push Agenda for Change through quickly, with pilot schemes this year and full implementation in spring 2004. There is not much time for us. We need to organise a strategy to oppose it.
LOUISE RATHBONE, nurse, Heartlands Hospital, Birmingham
WORKERS AT two Merseyside hospitals have voted at mass meetings to accept an improved deal from management. Members of the TGWU, Unison and GMB unions struck for one day at the end of last year at Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge hospitals on the Wirral over bad working conditions and poverty pay.
The deal means that low paid catering workers, porters and others have won better conditions which will bring them into line with higher grade staff. Management have not put any more money on the table to fund a pay rise. Although no extra money has been won, many workers believe it was right to fight and see the deal as a battle won against long hours and harsh conditions.
Health Worker Conference
Saturday 1 Feb 1-4pm, United Services Club, Gough St, Birmingham