The conference of NHS workers in the Unison union takes place next week.
The backdrop to it is a deepening NHS crisis, resistance from junior doctors and demands for action from the union’s leadership.
Unison is easily the biggest health union, but it is not doing nearly enough to fight the government’s attacks.
Karen Reissmann sits on Unison’s health service group executive.
She told Socialist Worker, “There’s a mood to fight and people are frustrated, but the leadership is falling short. Their argument is essentially to do nothing, so it’s up to branches to pick up resistance.”
Socialist Worker supporters in Unison have pushed for the union to demand an official assurance that there will be no attack on unsocial hours payments.
If the Tories wouldn’t give it, the union could start a dispute and ballot members to join the junior doctors.
But the union leadership made clear that this would be blocked. Karen said, “We couldn’t raise what we wanted because the leadership said it would be ruled out of order.”
The North West region’s Motion 19 on unsocial hours and Mid Yorkshire Health’s Motion 11 on the pay freeze are an opportunity to put pressure on the leadership.
Hunt is determined to smash health workers’ unsocial hours pay—and other terms and conditions—to soften the NHS up for privatisation.
The pay review body (PRB) did not recommend scrapping unsocial hours’ payments in the Agenda for Change health workers’ pay structure last July.
Hunt thought he could quickly smash the junior doctors and then take on other health workers.
But the bosses are coming for more. Motion 19 calls on the union to “resist any efforts to extend ‘normal working time’ and support other groups of health workers, such as junior doctors, in their efforts to resist such attacks.
“If any reduction in unsocial hours is proposed, to organise a campaign amongst members to defend unsocial hours and ballot members for industrial action.”
While this isn’t going on the offensive, it can be a way of putting pressure on the leadership.
Motion 11 “resolves to campaign amongst the membership for coordinated industrial action against the 1 percent pay cap.”
The conference begins next Monday and finishes on the day of the BMA’s second walkout. It should suspend standing orders and march to join the picket lines.
Activists still need to push Unison and the other health unions to immediately ballot their members and join the fight to save the NHS.
Vote left in Unison election
Voting has started in the Unison union’s service groups executive (SGE) elections. This is a chance to back left candidates.
For the local government SGE Socialist Worker backs: Liz Bailey, Angela Waller, David Hughes, John Mark Evans, Duncan Smith, Caroline Firmin, John McLoughlin, Sue Plain, Claire Wormald and Adrian Picton.
For the health SGE we back: Gary Freeman, Jordan Rivera, Linda Miller, Libby Nolan, Ian Thomas, Theresa Rollinson and Adrian O’Malley.