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Hundreds of Wirral health workers in a fight for pay

More than 500 NHS workers in the Unison union began their strike in Wirral last week
Issue 2871
on a big Unison health workers picket line in the Wirral

On the Unison union health workers’ picket line at Arrowe Park hospital in Merseyside (Picture: Norman Meddle)

Huge and loud picket lines lined the street outside Arrowe Park hospital in Merseyside last Thursday as more than 500 NHS staff began a 48 hour strike. 

Clinical Support Workers (CSWs), sometimes referred to as healthcare assistants, walked out in a fight over pay and grading. 

The Unison union members assist nurses to deliver care on the wards and are employed by Wirral University Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust. 

The union says they should be paid at least £2,000 more a year because they perform tasks well above their band two pay grade. 

Workers who should only be undertaking personal care, such as supporting patients with going to the toilet, washing and feeding are instead doing far more complex clinical tasks. 

They include monitoring blood, ECG tests, and putting in cannulas. 

Seven health trusts across the north west of England have moved many low‑paid CSWs onto band 3, and paid the affected staff backpay to April 2018. 

Wirral bosses eventually said it would follow suit, but would only backdate CSW pay to December 2022.

That means these workers would receive thousands of pounds less than those in other trusts. 

Unison member Nikki has been a CSW for the Trust for 19 years. She said, “I’m fed up with doing the work of a band three and only being recognised and appreciated as a band two. 

“It’s not just about the pay, it’s about being recognised. We’re not asking to be managers, just to be paid fairly for the work we’re doing. 

“We all love our jobs and are dedicated to our patients.

“But you have to stand up for what you believe in and what is right, and if nobody’s listening to us, we don’t have a choice.”

Major health strikes are set across east London

Thousands of NHS workers at four London health trusts are set to strike next month in a fight over pay and staffing. 

More than 2,800 workers in the Unite union, including nurses, porters and cleaners, will take action at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, East London NHS Foundation Trust and Guys and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust.

The dispute also includes hundreds of workers at Barts NHS trust in east London. 

In addition to the wider demands, they are also fighting over the way staff previously contracted out to the private sector have been unfairly treated since their return to the NHS. 

In May, the government announced that NHS workers would receive a 5 percent pay rise for this year.

Unite rightly rejected the offer—which is a real terms pay cut—while Unison, the RCN and the GMB all eventually settled. 

Staff at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust and Guys and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust are to take action on 13 and 14 September. 

Staff at East London NHS Foundation Trust will strike on 13 September. 

As a sign of their anger, Barts workers will strike for longer than the those at other trusts. They will be out for a total of eight days, on 13 and 14 September and from 16 to 22 September. 

Unite says the wider strike is a response to poor pay and short-staffing, which can “risk the health of patients and threaten staff welfare”. 

Bringing the fight together with those of the junior doctors and consultants is the best way to put pressure on NHS trust bosses and the government.

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