AROUND 500,000 health workers have started voting on the government's Agenda for Change plans. The proposals will mean insulting annual pay packets of £10,000, performance-related pay and flexible working.
The leaders of the Amicus and Unison unions are not putting up a fight against Agenda for Change, but lots of union activists are. Socialist Worker spoke to one of them, Louise Rathbone, a health worker from Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham.
She says, 'The campaign over Agenda for Change is taking off in my hospital. 'Over the last few weeks around 150 people have come to union meetings to discuss the proposals. People are gobsmacked by what the deal means - and they are angry about it. The union is a bit divided because auxiliary nurses are so badly paid that Agenda for Change could mean more money for them. I explain to people that even the government admits 8 percent of health workers, 80,000 people, will be worse off if Agenda for Change is implemented. On Thursday 8 May we start voting on whether Agenda for Change will be given a trial run in 12 hospitals. We are now holding union meetings in lots of different sections of the hospital. Lots of other grievances come out.'
Scunthorpe, Grimsby and Goole
STRIKE ACTION by low paid health workers has forced hospital bosses to offer an improved deal. Around 400 porters, domestics and cleaners working for the private contractor Carillion in the North Lincolnshire Hospital Trust have taken two 24-hour strikes.
They are campaigning for £5.02 an hour plus paid sick leave. The new offer means that from this April the pay grade will start at £4.60 an hour for new workers. This will rise to £4.85 for those with five or more years service.
From April 2004 the lowest grade will be £4.85 a year rising to a highest grade of £5.05 an hour. Carillion will give sick pay from April 2004 that will start at one week for new workers.
Carillion's offer means workers will have to wait a year for pay rises that will still be only just above the minimum wage. The health workers are being balloted on the offer.