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.

Get your motions in for Unite Policy Conference 2018

Unite will be holding its next Policy Conference in Brighton 2-6 July 2018. This is the opportunity for every member to shape our union’s policy. The process is already under way, with branches and committees sending in motions for the conference agenda. If you want to get a motion onto the agenda, you need to act now. Motions have to be agreed by a branch or committee and sent in to Unite HQ no later than 9 February 2018.

Delegates at Unite Policy conference 2016
Photo: @bluegreen_cathy on Twitter

Step one is to draft your motion. There are full guidelines here. If you’ve never done it before, don’t be put off, but do ask for help if you need it.

Each branch and each constitutional committee (i.e. Regional & National Industrial Sector Committee; Regional & National Equality Committee, Regional Committee, Area Activist Committee) can submit one motion on any general policy topic (i.e. not about a particular sector and not requiring a change to Unite’s rules). The National Retired Members’ Committee and each Regional Retired Members’ Co-ordinating Committees can also submit one motion each, but these can only be on about matters solely pertaining to members in retirement.

The meetings held round the country before Unite Rank & File launched came up with lots of ideas, including areas where we can campaign to improve union policy. Note that there’s no need to submit motions to restate existing policy – motions should change existing policy or add to it.

Here are some suggestions to get you thinking – feel free to comment with your own ideas or what you’ve already submitted:

Organising / industrial action:

  • Disputes unit support, focused on winning, not just legal compliance, for all disputes from an early stage
  • Improve support for company and sub-sector combines
  • Increasing lay member involvement in organising
  • Response to the Trade Union Act 2016
  • Review / overhaul Unite education in the light of government funding cuts
  • Facility for levies (e.g. for strike funds) by workplace / employer, not just branch – for many members branch doesn’t directly match employer / workplace
  • Recruitment and organising of migrant workers and refugees

Democracy / accountability:

  • Review of Unite structures to better support members in multi-region employers
  • Investigate the role of union officials in blacklisting, and support the Blacklist Support Group
  • Policy against officers approaching employers over the heads of reps / branch officers
  • Tackle non-functioning branches so members aren’t left without a functioning branch for long periods
  • Improve Unite grievance and complaint procedures
  • Change General Secretary elections to Single Transferable Vote
  • Ban branches passing member data to campaigns or third parties during Unite elections
  • Ban Unite employees (other than candidates) from campaigning in Unite elections
  • Official videoed hustings for Unite elections
  • Limit the General Secretary’s wage
  • Facilitation and control of communication with members during union elections
  • Require disclosure / control over fundraising and expenditure during union elections

Equality:

  • Put equality on the agenda of all branch and constitutional committee meetings
  • Make regional women’s and equality officer roles full time (or job share)
  • Review equality structures to ensure they are effective in representing each equality group, championing its issues, and promoting participation
  • Extend the recommendations from the report on women officers in Unite to all employees
  • Improve equality training for lay and full-time officers, reps and members
  • Including impact on members without UK citizenship and members working overseas in materials about impact of Brexit on workers’ rights
  • Workers’ rights to live and work where they want
  • Trans rights and Gender Recognition

Miscellaneous:

  • Cuts and privatisation
  • Councils implementing cuts
  • Diversification from destructive projects to good, socially useful, jobs
  • Trump visiting the UK
  • Housing after Grenfell
  • Automation and Artificial Intelligence
  • Brexit
  • Labour Party
  • Universal Credit