Britain’s largest health union Unison has called for Monday 13 October to be the day for England’s first NHS pay strike in 32 years.
On Friday of last week Unison health executive voted overwhelmingly to ask its industrial action committee to authorise a strike of 300,000 health workers for four hours from 7am.
This will be followed by days of action short of strike from 14-17 October, where health workers will insist on taking their breaks.
Unison national executive member Karen Reissmann spoke to Socialist Worker in a personal capacity. “This is really great news,” she said. “We need to throw ourselves behind the action and make it as big as possible.”
Unison members voted by 68 percent to strike.
Unite, GMB and the Royal College of Midwives are also balloting their members in the NHS. The ballot of Unite members was set to end on Friday of this week.
Vice chair of Unite’s Bristol health branch Gwyneth Powell-Davis said, “It’s a fantastic opportunity for all who care about the NHS to show their opposition to the Tories.”
Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt has denied most NHS workers even the recommended miserly 1 percent pay rise recommended by the pay review body.
Inflation has already wiped out 12 percent of the average NHS worker’s pay since 2011.
Workers in the bottom two pay bands are paid less than the Living Wage and 70 percent of NHS nurses are not due a pay rise for another two years.
But the strikes are also a chance to provide a focus for the deep opposition to the Tories’ attacks on the NHS.
One London Ambulance worker and GMB member told Socialist Worker, “All the people I know are voting yes. They are frightened at what is going on.”
The ambulance service is in crisis.Workers are leaving in droves under pressure from bullying management and changes to working patterns.
Bosses went on a recruitment trip to Australia in July, but hundreds of emergency calls are regularly put on hold.
The planned health workers’ walkout is set to take place the day before up to one million local
government workers and further education lecturers in England and Wales strike on 14 October.
Then Saturday 18 October will see TUC and STUC demonstrations in London and Glasgow.
The PCS union executive was set to meet on Tuesday of this week to decide whether to join the 14 October pay strike.
Health workers are encouraging people to visit picket lines for breakfast in the morning. They are also pushing for health workers to join local government picket lines the next day.
Gwyneth said, “We want trade unionists, people from NHS campaigns and anti bedroom tax and cuts groups to come to our picket lines.
“Up and down the country people are fed up with the Tories and want to defend the NHS. We need to bring together that opposition.”
BREAKING: PCS civil service workers' union announces national strike on Wednesday 15 October