Socialist Worker

Back Bolton health workers’ battle for NHS pay

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2625

Workers rejected bosses attempts to fob them off with an slightly-improved offer

Workers rejected bosses' attempts to fob them off with an slightly-improved offer


Outsourced health workers in Bolton were set to begin a 48-hour walkout for higher pay on Thursday.

The Unison union members at the Royal Bolton Hospital in Greater Manchester work for the iFM wholly-owned subsidiary as cleaners, porters and support staff.

While the hospital is iFM’s only shareholder, bosses are refusing to give workers the agreed NHS pay rates of £8.93 an hour.

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Their dispute shows how wholly-owned subsidiaries are a launchpad to full blown privatisation.

Bosses tried to fob off workers with a new pay offer, which was conditional on the union calling off the strikes.

This would have amounted to the Living Wage Foundation’s real living wage rate of £8.75 an hour—still less than what directly-employed NHS workers receive.

This would have allowed iFM bosses to entrench the divide between outsourced workers and those directly employed.

The aim of wholly-owned subsidiaries is to undermine workers’ wages, terms and conditions.

Private 

Slashing the wage bill makes it more attractive to private companies to take over those services in the future. Defuse

Workers rejected bosses’ attempts to defuse their anger at meetings and supported going ahead with the strikes.

Unison organiser Tim Ellis said, “Staff spoke very clearly and determinedly at our meetings about how they want the dignity of common treatment.

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“Staff perform important roles in the hospital, and there should be NHS pay rates for all NHS staff.” He added, “Bolton iFM’s latest offer shows that they have the resources to pay close to the NHS rate in the short term.

“It would be easy for them now to pay staff the proper rate and commit to their workforce in the future.”

Bosses at the Royal Bolton NHS Foundation Trust should bring all those workers back in house.

The NHS Improvement regulator issued guidance last month telling trusts to pause plans to set up any new wholly-owned subsidiaries.

A number of trusts across the North and Midlands have backed down in recent months.

This would not have happened without a series of determined fights, including in nearby Wigan where strikes forced bosses to back down from outsourcing plans.

Every trade unionist should build support for the fight at Bolton.


Revolt over NHS pay deal intensifies 

Two thirds of the leadership body of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced last week that they would step down.

This comes amid a grassroots backlash over a shoddy pay deal.

The RCN Council members had been trying to hang on after a 78 percent vote of no confidence last month.

Pressure forced them to say they couldn’t ignore the “moral weight” of the vote

The RCN was among the 13 health unions that misrepresented a pay deal to members.

The vote and resignations vindicate all those in Unison and the other health unions who fought to reject the NHS pay deal.

Health workers were promised a 3 percent pay rise this year.

But this was broken into two stages for those who have not reached the top of their pay bands—1.5 percent in August and 1.5 percent on their pay increment date.

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This means that unless a workers’ pay increment date was on 1 April, they won’t get the full 3 percent increase this year.

Nominations for 12 of the 17 seats on the RCN council, its leadership body, have opened now and close on 25 October.

The elections will begin on 21 November and close on 11 December.

The RCN’s president and deputy president are among those in the leadership who are not stepping down.

There is widespread anger in the NHS that the deal has not measured up to the claims that were made about it.

Activists in Unison, Unite and the GMB should use the RCN revolt to pressure all the union leaders to reopen the deal.


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