Victory for health workers in Lincolnshire

The long-running Lincolnshire health visitors’ dispute is coming to an end with a pay victory that sees the vast majority of the workforce being upgraded.

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, today (Thursday 5 December) hailed the victory, which will see most of the union’s members move onto the grade 10 pay scale, as ‘highly significant’.

Unite regional officer Steve Syson said: “Thanks to the tremendous solidarity that our members have shown since this dispute started in the summer, we have achieved a highly significant and welcome victory.

“The health visitors’ determination against what they considered as a gross pay injustice was buttressed by the firm backing from the people of Lincolnshire and from supporters across the UK.”

The dispute had centred on the council’s insistence on different contracts for grade 9 and grade 10 health visitors, while Unite has consistently argued that as all health visitors have the same qualifications they should be paid the same.

The health visitors have now suspended their month-long strike action while the authority upgrades the health visitors; however, Unite reserves the right to reinstitute strike action if the council does not abide with the agreement. Besides the grade 10 job roles, the health visitors will receive between £2,000- £6,000 in a one-off transitional payment.

More than 70 Unite health visitors voted for the month-long, now suspended, strike that started on 18 November. Of those about 58 will now be fast tracked to the grade 10 posts with 16 further Agenda for Change AfC) staff awaiting confirmation; about 13 have left or are departing to take up alternative employment within nursing, which leaves a handful of relatively new health visitors on grade 9.

Unite pledged today that it would explore every avenue to get those still on grade 9 uplifted to grade 10 as soon as possible.

Unite regional secretary for the East Midlands Paresh Patel added: “I think that a number of factors contributed to this positive outcome, including the fact that the council was, and even now, is continuing to lose highly skilled health visitors at the rate of knots, as our members are offered alternative roles elsewhere in recognition of their experience.

“There was also the stark realisation by council bosses that our members were prepared to take further strike action on top of what they had already taken in the summer, after a second ballot confirmed they were prepared to continue on with further industrial action.

“This victory should be seen in the context of a broader campaign for a fully-resourced health visiting service across England – that fight will continue across the country in 2020.”

Reject the NHS pay deal and push for strike action

The ballot for the NHS pay deal opens on the 30th April. Unite Health Rep Mark Boothroyd (personal capacity) explains why this is a crucial opportunity for Unite members to reject the government’s offer and start a fight for the pay rise they need and deserve.

Health worker with clipboard

The pay deal is the outcome of negotiations between all 14 NHS unions and the government. The majority of the unions claim it is “the best that can be achieved without strike action” in the words of the negotiators. The GMB union disagrees and is recommending rejection. It is right to do so. UNITE members must reject the deal and push Unite and all other NHS unions to take industrial action if necessary to secure an above inflation pay rise. Remember the Government originally wanted to take one day’s holiday off NHS staff and the public outcry forced them to retreat. They can be beaten with a campaign. And we haven’t even started campaigning yet.

The proposed deal offers staff a total of 6.5% rise over three years: 3% in the first year, 1.7% in the second year and 1.67% in the third year. Those at the bottom of their band will get a larger raise as the bottom of pay bands are raised slightly, and band 1 will be abolished and the Living Wage brought in to the NHS.

This will be a boost for the lowest paid bands, but many of the workers who should benefit are in services that have been privatised, so will not benefit at all, as the pay rise as only applies to NHS contracted staff.

Inflation is predicted to be 6-8% over the next three years, so in reality the offer would mean a below inflation pay “rise” for most staff – a pay cut in real terms. It’s less than we deserve and less than we need to keep pace with the rising cost of living. It won’t stop the haemorrhaging of skilled staff from the overworked and unstaffed hospitals, and won’t attract more people to work in a service being dragged down by austerity and privatisation.

To accept this offer is to throw away a historic opportunity to challenge the government over their handling of the NHS. For once all the NHS unions are working together, negotiating together and there is a great opportunity for coordinated strike action against the government. If this is the best deal 14 unions could achieve just through negotiation, imagine how much more we could get with the threat of strike action by all the unions.

All unions are balloting on the offer at the same time, so its a great opportunity to coordinate campaigns with other union activists in your hospital or community services.

The government is in an extremely weak position, beset by scandal and failing brexit negotiations. If we apply pressure through the threat of strike action, we can force them to give us what we need: a large above inflation pay rise to address the 10-14% pay we have lost to inflation in the last decade.

If we accept this deal, we take the pressure off the government for another three years, and we lock ourselves into a below inflation pay rise, right before Brexit crashes the economy and sends living costs soaring.

Unite Health is recommending this deal to members. This is a mistake, and the decision was based on the belief that our members would not be willing to challenge the government over this miserable pay deal. We need to organise to prove them wrong, contact Unite Rank and File to help coordinate opposition to the pay offer, and organise to save the NHS from the rotten Tory government.

More links on the NHS pay offer: