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:

Mears housing maintenance strike wins 20% pay rises

Mears strikers with banners

After more than 80 days of strike action, housing maintenance workers at Mears / Manchester Working have won pay rises of around 20% over three years. We hear from some of the workers celebrating their victory “less chat, more bat”:

It is a testament to the strikers’ unity and determination that less than 200 of them managed to acheive such a victory against an employer with a turnover of over £500m and about 4000 employees.

Right to the end, the employer tried to divide the workforce – proposing a deal similar to that eventually agreed, but leaving out four Resident Liaison Officers (RLO’s) – a group which by an amazing coincidence included Billy Nugent, the senior steward, who had led the rebuilding of union organisation that enabled the successful strike. The money involved was trivial to Mears, this was widely seen as an act of spite. To their enormous credit, the workers voted overwhelmingly that they would continue their action unless the RLO’s were included. It is a sign of the spirit of the strikers that some are disappointed that the RLO’s will only get around £4000 extra – an impressive sum by most standards, but less than most strikers will get.

It won’t just be the younger workers who get real benefits from this victory. Many of the workers are older and have final salary pensions which will be significantly boosted by reversing the years of falling real wages.

There’s no doubt that Unite’s strike fund, into which all branches contribute 2.5% of subs and which currently stands at over £30m, played a vital role in enabling the workers to sustain the industrial action and secure this inspiring victory.

Unite’s Construction sector has seen a lot of change with the influx of former UCATT members. Whenever unions join together there is a risk of divisions on the basis of former unions and their traditions rather than issues facing members now or in the future. The Mears workforce was predominantly ex-UCATT. Workers stuck together irrespective of their former union. They have won a victory of which the whole construction sector, the whole of Unite and the whole trade union movement can be proud.

Previous report: http://www.uniterankandfile.org/mears-unity-to-the-end/

The Unite press release.

Mears: unity to the end

Mears strikers with banners

This morning Unite members at Mears & Manchester Working Limited, who carry out housing maintenance for Northwards Housing, went back to work (for now). They have struck 4 days per week for the last 12 weeks, after a previous 12-week period of strikes last year. The dispute isn’t over yet, but “as for now – we’re winning”.

Members voted last week to return to work today after an offer which for most people means a 10% immediate pay rise, with a further 5% spread over two years. This is a testament to the sustained strike action, and to campaigning activity which has included protests at housing offices, leafleting tenants, and pressuring Manchester City Council, who stand behind this outsourced service.

The remaining sticking point involves four workers (RLOs) where the employer has not budged. The four include Bill Nugent, the senior steward, which nobody sees as a coincidence. In an impressive display of unity, the workers voted last week that they will be out again next week unless the employers and the council resolve this outstanding issue this week. An injury to one is an injury to all.

This video shows Unite rep Billy Sinclair explaining the situation, and many of the workers marching in to work together this morning.