AROUND 1,000 radiographers showed their opposition to Agenda for Change—the government’s sweeping changes to pay and conditions across the NHS—in central London last Saturday.
The two biggest health unions, Unison and Amcius, have announced ballot results giving half-hearted backing to Agenda for Change.
But the 20,000-strong Society of Radiographers (SoR), which voted by 83 percent to reject, has threatened industrial action over the deal.
The radiographers, their families and NHS colleagues held a rally in Trafalgar Square, London, last Saturday. They heard SoR officials, rank and file workers and student radiographers denounce the deal from the platform.
Agenda for Change could see radiographers, who perform X-rays, ultrasound scans and radiotherapy on cancer patients, working a 37.5-hour week. But they will still only be paid for the 35 hours they currently work.
SoR deputy general secretary Warren Town told Socialist Worker, “The government talks about family-friendly hours. We think the NHS as a whole should be moving to a 35-hour week.
“We’ve been honest with our members and told them the truth about what Agenda for Change will mean for them. That’s why they voted to reject the deal.”
The SoR is currently in talks with the government, but Warren said he did not rule out strikes against the deal.
Rebecca, an SoR rep from Hammersmith Hospital, came to the protest as part of a delegation. She explained what the deal would mean for her: “In effect it will mean a £1,500 pay cut. If the SoR does call for strikes I know there will be support for it in my branch.”
The deal is not just facing opposition from radiographers. Unison, the biggest health union, voted by around 75 percent to back the deal, but only around a quarter of Unison members in the NHS voted.
Yunus Bakhsh, a member of Unison’s health service group executive, told Socialist Worker, “The low turnout in the most important ballot for years is hardly a ringing endorsement of this deal.”
In the Amicus union the deal was also accepted—but with 43 percent voting against.
According to Yunus, NHS managers will attempt to use the deal to attack the terms and conditions of health workers locally:
“At Newcastle and Durham trusts in the northern region managers are refusing to work with the union,” he says. “They say they have a veto on the pay bands workers are put onto. This makes a mockery of the claim that this is a partnership deal.”
There are still questions over unsociable hours payments, which were removed from the deal at the last minute and are set to be renegotiated.
Yunus says, “The review into unsociable hours payments will not happen until after the election. There will be less pressure on the government, and no extra funding has been promised.
“We have to strengthen the organisation of health workers to meet attacks on terms and conditions. We should call for a 35-hour week for all NHS workers and make links with the SoR.”
Workers at the North East Ambulance Service were meeting as Socialist Worker went to press to discuss action over management’s refusal to recognise the verdict of binding arbitration over meal break payments for staff.