Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2913

Industrial round-up: NHS workers in battle over pay

Over 300 health care and nursing assistants in East Sussex and North East Essex vote to strike
Issue 2913
A rally of ESNEFT
 workers in May this year (Picture: @UnisonEastern Twitter)

A rally of ESNEFT workers in May this year (Picture: @UnisonEastern Twitter)

Low paid health workers in England are determined to keep striking—despite pressure from the new Labour government to wind them down.

Thousands of heath care assistants and nursing assistants are demanding they be re-graded from NHS band 2 to band 3. This, they insist, reflects the clinical work they do in addition to patient personal care.

Unison union members across the country have already won several key battles over the issue. Most trusts now accept the principle of re-banding but are fighting over how many years of backpay workers will get.

Unison’s best wins have resulted in back payments for the last five years—with a total payout of thousands for some longstanding workers.

Hundreds of healthcare assistants at five hospitals across Leicester and Northamptonshire struck last week after rejected a poor offer from management.

They stood together with striking junior doctors just days before the general election. And new groups of workers are entering into the battle all the time.

More than 300 workers for East Suffolk and North Essex NHS last week voted to strike. They could soon be joined by thousands of cleaners, porters and housekeepers after trust bosses threatened to privatise its services.

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Nearly 300 porters, cleaners and catering workers at Nottinghamshire’s Sherwood Forest hospital trust began a five-day strike on Monday of this week.

The GMB union members are employed by Medirest, a private contractor for the NHS.

Workers are furious as bosses have refused to keep terms and conditions in line with those of the NHS, creating a two-tier workforce.

Strikers will walkout at King’s Mill, Mansfield Community and Newark Community hospitals.

By Yuri Prasad

Trust UCU union’s own workers strike in long-running battle

Nearly 200 workers employed by the UCU union are escalating their strikes in protest at their management’s working practices.

The Unite union represents UCU’s staff and they voted over the complete breakdown of industrial relations and the unreasonable approach taken by their employer to negotiations.

Members of Unite voted overwhelmingly for strikes. The workers then struck on Monday and Wednesday last week.

They were also set to strike on Wednesday and Thursday this week.

Unite regional officer Rose Keeping said, “The UCU’s undermining of existing industrial recognition agreements, failure to agree key working principles and heavy-handed use of disciplinary procedures have left our members with no choice but to strike.

“Our members employed at the UCU will receive Unite’s total support.”

Barnet social workers stand firm against strike breakers

Barnet adult mental health social workers began the week on day 77 of their strike, with their last five days of action planned until Friday this week.

The strikes rallied outside Hendon Town Hall on Tuesday evening against the north London Labour council’s strikebreaking.

After striking for 27 days between September and February, the strikers walked out for two weeks in April. They then held three weeks of action in May and planned four across June and July.

But they escalated and have been out continuously since 13 May. The strikers, in the Unison union, want the council to give them a higher recruitment and retention payment.

Yet disgracefully the council refuses to acknowledge there is a retention issue in the service.

Barnet Unison said, “Over the past few weeks Labour-controlled Barnet council has paid for a recruitment agency to provide social workers to carry out the work our strikers would be doing if they were not on strike.

“It is Unison’s view that this is strikebreaking. The actions of Barnet council to employ Tory tactics and anti-union laws to strike break is an attack on the trade union movement.

“It provides cover for other employers to use the same tactics to break other strikes.“ 

Almost half of tractor strikers reject pay deal

Workers have very narrowly voted to end strikes by more than 500 workers at CNH Industrial’s Basildon tractor factory in Essex.

But 46 percent of Unite union members voted against the offer. Unite previously cancelled action scheduled while strikers vote on the offer of 5 percent.

Bosses in 2022 agreed to pay the rate of a yearly average of CPI inflation, which amounts to 7.4 percent for 2024.

But they offered 4 percent for the CPI inflation rate in January 2024, rather than as an average for the whole previous year.

And they want the 2025 pay rise to be based just on December 2024. Unite didn’t give any recommendation on the offer, but the close result shows how many in the workplace wanted to fight for what was theirs.

Some 90 workers have also had their line allowance withdrawn. Unite has sent a petition to the company’s headquarters in Italy about bullying culture and another to the plant manager to review the pay grades for the first time in 30 years.

But action is the best way to make the bosses listen. Those who wanted to continue the fight should be ready to march out again if conditions continue to deteriorate.

One striker said, “Many people believed it wasn’t much of a choice because of how much pay it would mean sacrificing in the short term and the company just continued to be harsher on them.”

Unite should have given them the confidence to carry on.

Eurostar workers win Olympic gold

Eurostar workers in the RMT union have won improved payments after negotiations and suspended their ballot to strike.

The rail company has agreed to significantly improve premium payments for staff working during the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Eurostar will now provide a one-off payment of at least £650 to eligible employees, replacing the shift-based system.

Strike ballot at Cammell Laird

Hundreds of GMB and Unite union members at Cammell Laird shipbuilders on Merseyside began a strike ballot this week.

It follows management suspending seven workers after 450 people refused to cross an RMT union picket line during a strike on 25 June.

The ballot is scheduled to close on 5 August.

EIS re-ballot to renew pay action

Scottish college workers are continuing their re-ballot to renew the strike mandate in a long–running battle over pay. The vote is set to finish on 22 July.

The EIS union said it “may be the most important vote members will cast this summer”.

It said, “This is the only means of continuing to apply pressure to both College Employers Scotland and the Scottish government.”

Tram engineers win a pay settlement

London Trams engineers have ended their strike after agreeing to a new deal.

The workers who are members of the Unite union were angry at the pay disparities between themselves and colleagues on the London Underground performing the same role.

The new offer from Transport for London will see some London Trams engineering grades get an uplift of up to 20 percent.

Five days of strikes planned last week and from this Thursday were cancelled after workers accepted the deal.

Refuse workers may cause a fringe stink

Waste service workers in 13 Scottish councils have voted for strikes. GMB union members could strike during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which takes place over August.

Unions submitted their pay claims in January this year—Cosla, the convention of Scottish local authorities, made an offer in May, which was promptly rejected.

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