Socialist Worker

More unions join the NHS pay revolt as fresh strikes are called

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2428

Picket at St Thomas Hospital, south London, during last months health strike

Picket at St Thomas' Hospital, south London, during last month's health strike (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Health workers across nine unions in England are set to strike for four hours on Monday 24 November.

This will follow a walkout of health workers in the Unison union in Wales on Monday of next week. 

The strikes are part of an ongoing pay dispute in the health service.

Up to 500,000 health workers in England in the Unison, Unite, GMB and Ucatt unions and the Royal College of Midwives walked out on 13 October.

The Society of Radiographers struck across Britain the following week. On 24 November they will all strike on the same day. 

Momentum is growing to build a serious fightback in the NHS, as new groups of workers join the fight.

The British Association of Occupational Therapists, Prison Officers Association members in three high security hospitals and one management association will join the strike in England.

Health workers are furious with Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt for refusing to give most even a 

1 percent pay rise—but the strike is about more than just pay. 

Karen Reissmann, Unison national and health executive member, spoke to Socialist Worker in a personal capacity. 

“What drives people is not just pay, it’s about defending the NHS,” she said.

“That’s why the picket lines were so big and why we had so much support during the last strike.”

Crisis

The NHS faces a crisis as growing workloads and budget cuts force workers out.

A recent Royal College of Nursing report showed there were 7,000 fewer qualified nurses in August of last year than in May 2010. The government spent more than £5.5 billion on agency staff over the last four years. 

Labour’s shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said last week that the party leadership will back a private members bill against NHS privatisation.

It would repeal the Health and Social Care Act section 75 rules that make tendering of NHS contracts compulsory. 

Yet the NHS also faces a gaping £8 billion black hole—and Labour remains committed to Tory spending cuts.

Last month’s health strikes showed that workers will fight when union leaders give a lead.

Every worker needs to make the next strikes as successful as possible.

Workers across the public sector face similar attacks on pay. Other unions should join the health workers’ walkout.

Trade unionists and campaigners collected hundreds of pounds in workplaces and joined the picket lines in solidarity. They need to do this again.

The Unite the Resistance conference’s health workshop will be a key place to discuss the fightback in the NHS.


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