Socialist Worker

Health workers

Issue No. 1800

NEWSPAPERS headlines last week trumpeted 'an inflation-busting 6.5 percent pay rise' for over 300,000 health workers. The reality is very different. The pay deal covers NHS ancillary, administration and clerical and ambulance staff-some of the lowest paid workers in the health service. The deal was for a minimum increase of 3.6 percent or £400 a year, whichever was greater.

This means the vast majority of workers will get a pay rise of just 3.6 percent. A few low paid ancillary workers will get £400 a year (which gives them rises of up to 6 percent), but will still remain on minimum pay rates of just £4.47 an hour. The offer was accepted by Unison members in a ballot. But the union leadership had already made it clear they would not fight over pay.

There was huge anger at how the union leadership pushed through the deal at the recent Unison health conference. Kay Walker from Leicestershire said, 'This sends a terrible signal not to campaign, not to organise, not to fight.'

Unison leaders have banked on winning a new pay structure from the government. Yet the government has dragged its heels over the negotiations and has yet to make a proposal.

Rather than begging for concessions from New Labour, Unison leaders should be following the inspiring example of the medical secretaries in Glasgow and the north east of England. Instead this year hundreds of thousands of low paid workers who keep the NHS going will be stuck on poverty wages.

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Sat 18 May 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1800
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