Socialist Worker

Newcastle hospital workers' strike

Issue No. 1975

On the picket line at Newcastle General Hospital (Pic: Ray Smith)

On the picket line at Newcastle General Hospital (Pic: Ray Smith)

Over 500 hospital workers in Newcastle were on strike on Monday. The strike is to oppose “leapfrogging” where, because of the agenda for change pay structure, new staff join the workforce on higher pay than their more experienced colleagues.

Phil Donovan, a senior site rep at Newcastle General Hospital, said, “Some people have worked here for 20 years, but people who are just starting are getting better pay.

“This is an issue that will affect people across the health service. But it is the lowest paid workers in the hospital who have decided to come out on strike.

“There is massive support from the public. People driving past are using their horns to show their support.”

The strikers are members of the Unison union at the Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary, Freeman and General hospitals.

They include low paid porters, cleaners, catering staff and laundry workers.

Some 49 percent of the workers took part in a strike ballot, with 77 percent voting in favour. Workers organised picket lines and early on Monday morning there were 30 to 40 strikers outside each of the three sites. Further action could follow the one-day strike.

Yunus Bakhsh, a member of the Unison health service group executive, said, “This fantastic strike follows real attempts to intimidate workers.

“Those attempts have rebounded massively.

“This is a crucial dispute. It is about the agenda for change pay deal, and on whose terms the deal’s implementation will take place.”

Agenda for change involved sweeping changes in pay for workers across the NHS. Health unions have expressed grave concerns about present workers being held on inadequate pay.

Unions have urged health managers to agree earlier increment dates for experienced workers to make sure these pay differences do not arise.

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Sat 5 Nov 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1975
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