By Yuri Prasad
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Healthcare workers fight for better pay

Healthcare assistants in Bedfordshire and security workers in central London struck. NHS workers in Nottinghamshire are balloting for strikes.
Issue 2897
Healthcare assistants picketing in Bedfordshire as healthcare workers strike

Healthcare assistants picketing in Bedfordshire (Picture: Unison)

Hundreds of healthcare assistants in Luton and Dunstable, Bedfordshire, struck for three days last week in a dispute over grading. They were joined by workers on Teesside who struck for 24 hours. The Unison union members are angry at being asked to carry out clinical tasks without extra pay.

Healthcare assistants are in salary band 2 and so should only be providing personal care. But healthcare assistants are regularly asked to perform other tasks, including taking blood, inserting cannulas and performing ECG tests. Staff performing these tasks should be on band 3.

Michelle Cook, one of the healthcare assistants picketing the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, said it “should never have come to this point”. “My clinical duties vary from taking bloods to doing wound care dressing. We’re doing the same work as colleagues who are getting paid far more than us, it’s just not fair.”

Bosses “have made an offer to move workers on to a higher pay grade, where applicable, with back pay to July 2021”. But Unison nationally has been fighting—and winning—back pay as far back as 2018 in some cases. That would mean a payout worth thousands of pounds for many of its members.

Security workers at Guys and St Thomas’ hospitals in central London began a seven-day strike on Monday of this week. The Unite union members are in a battle over wages, with guards being among the worst paid in the health service. One striker said, “Our security management got a pay increase last year, but our salary remains the same, despite our role becoming increasingly more dangerous.

“We never quite know what we are going to get when we come into work and that is incredibly daunting. We deal with everything, from volatile patients to opening and unlocking various hospital departments. It all comes with a great deal of risk, but that is ignored by the trust. We have simply had enough.”

Porters, cleaners, catering workers, call operators and security workers across the NHS in Nottinghamshire have begun balloting for strikes in a fight over pay parity. The GMB union members, who are subcontracted to Medirest, are demanding to be paid in line with staff directly employed by the NHS.

And they are demanding the “Covid bonus” that the government offered to all staff that worked through the height of the pandemic. The Unison and Unite unions already have live disputes over the same issue. All health unions with affected members should join forces and push for a nationwide dispute over the issue.

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