Health workers are angry that their union leaders are trying to stitch up a below-inflation pay deal that would also see them lose a day’s holiday.
According to leaks from negotiations they would get 6.5 percent pay rise split across three years, with 3 percent in 2018/19 and between 1 and 2 percent across the following two years. With the RPI measure of inflation running at 4 percent, anything less than that is a pay cut.
Jordan, a Unison member and health worker in east London, was at an NHS conference when she heard the news. “There was a lot of anger from Unison and RCN members,” she told Socialist Worker in a personal capacity.
“People thought that it was outrageous—and that the pay increases would in no way compensate for the loss of annual leave.
“I had a letter saying my rent was going up £40 a month. You think, ‘What do I have to give up now?’ especially now I’ve got a second child.
“It is rubbish, it doesn’t begin to make up for what we’ve lost in pay.”
And the proposed loss of annual leave is another kick in the teeth for underpaid, overworked health workers. As Jordan said, “Annual leave is so important when you’re in the NHS because of how hard people work.
“Nobody would be happy about it. We should encourage people to reject it—once leave is gone, it’s gone forever.”
Fourteen health unions put in for an above-inflation pay claim of 3.9 percent plus an £800 lump sum last September. It came amid growing anger at the Tories’ 1 percent public sector pay cap and union leaders threatening industrial action.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the government would lift the pay cap, but said it would be in exchange for “productivity increases”. That is precisely what the leaked deal proposes, making workers work more for less.
Unison’s leadership were furious details of the deal were leaked to the Guardian newspaper on Friday. They had hoped to keep it hushed up ahead of the Unison health conference that begins in Brighton on 16 April.
Health workers should reject any pay deals based on below-inflation rises or erode terms and conditions. And Unison, Unite, GMB and the other health union should ballot their members for strikes, not fritter away people’s anger at low pay.
A wave of strikes by the university workers has shown how hard-hitting action can have the bosses on the run.
Further education (FE) college lecturers have already struck twice for pay—and plan further strikes. And the PCS civil service workers’ union has said it could move towards a ballot for strikes over pay if the government doesn’t meet its demands in April.
Strikes have the power to win real pay rises—and shake Theresa May’s weak, chaotic government.
Local government workers vote on 2 percent offer
Local government workers in England and Wales have been voting on whether to accept a below-inflation pay offer.
The consultative ballot closed on Friday. The full results were unclear as Socialist Worker went to press.
The Unison, Unite and GMB unions all held consultative ballots over accepting a 2 percent pay deal this year and next year. Unison and Unite both recommended rejecting the deal, but the GMB didn’t make a recommendation.
The GMB said that over
94 percent of its members voted to accept the deal.
From the small sample of results that Socialist Worker has seen, some Unison members have voted to reject the paltry deal and fight for more. Branches where there was a strong campaign saw the highest votes to reject.
Jon Woods is branch chair of Portsmouth City Unison where members voted 75 percent to reject on a turnout of 39 percent.
He said this demonstrated “a real mood to fight, from people who have had enough of pay cuts. Where we put the work in it is reflected in the turnout.”
But Jon argued, “We need a national campaign, pushed from the top of the union, and a real attempt to mobilise people. The universities’ strike shows there is a potential to fight.”
Strike ballot closer for civil service
Civil service workers could take the lead in the fight to beat the pay cap—by launching a ballot for strikes.
The civil service union PCS warned that it could launch a strike ballot if the Tories don’t “make a positive response” to its pay claim. It is demanding an increase of 5 percent or £1,200, whichever is greater.
The PCS says its members have suffered a real-terms pay cut of 20 percent since 2010. That’s a result of years of 1 percent pay increases far outstripped by inflation—a cap imposed on all public sector workers. Now senior PCS reps have reported that bosses are looking to cut jobs, hours or terms and conditions in return for a pay deal.
PCS members showed they were up for a fight in a consultative ballot last year, when 79 percent said they would strike to beat the pay cap. But the union has been slow to turn this into a formal ballot.
A statutory ballot could
re-energise that campaign, giving a lead to other public sector workers in a fight that could create a new crisis for the Tory government.
PCS NEC member Candy Udwin told Socialist Worker in a personal capacity, “It’s great that we’re saying clearly that we’re moving towards a ballot.
“This shows the members that we’re serious. The lesson from the universities strikes is that we should be bold.”