Blog: Vote ‘yes’ for your futures and the future of our NHS

The current health secretary says nurses can like it or lump it on the below-inflation pay offer, but that’s not good enough. NHS staff – and the service itself – need much better

Green box with purple outline, tilted at a slight angle on a white background in the left half of the rectangle. Words 'vote yes for the NHS' in purple and white. Background is white, with UNISON logo at top right and in green at bottom right

What would you do with an extra 72p an hour in your pay packet? Those extra pennies amount to the pay award that was imposed on NHS staff in England and Wales this year.

A flat rate of £1,400 extra per year, for the essential workers who save lives and worked all through the pandemic, is simply not enough. For many NHS workers it’s just about a 4% increase, which lags way behind inflation.

And it gets worse. NHS workers in Northern Ireland have received no increase at all. Disagreements in Stormont over Brexit trading arrangements have caused a political paralysis preventing the executive from agreeing a budget that would allow public sector pay awards to be given.

Once again, working people are being forced to pay for the crises caused by the people in power. Remember the ‘thank yous’, the claps and the praise politicians showered on the NHS through the pandemic? It seems long forgotten now.

The current health secretary, Thérèse Coffey, thinks volunteers can fix the NHS, and has encouraged nurses to leave the NHS if they don’t like the pay.

And while the musical chairs continue in Downing Street and the Conservatives refuse to give the country the chance to vote on our futures, NHS waiting lists grow, staffing shortages increase and a winter crisis looms.

UNISON is focused on the millions of workers who are suffering from the cost of living crisis, and will give hundreds of thousands of NHS workers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland the chance to vote.

Our strike ballot opens this week, on Thursday 27 October, and we’re asking everyone to vote ‘yes’ for their futures and for the future of the NHS.

So, if you’re a UNISON member working in the NHS, please make sure you vote. Encourage your colleagues to vote too. We need a big turnout – and we need to take action.

On the eve of the ballot opening, I’ll be hosting an online rally for health members. You can watch it live on youtube or facebook from 6pm on Wednesday 26 October.

While you keep an eye out for your ballot paper arriving at your front door, I’ll be keeping a close eye on the new prime minister’s plans. He could do the right thing by the NHS and its dedicated workforce. He could take his lead from businesses, like the high street supermarkets that are giving their staff a second – or even third – pay rise in a year.

But given that he is already setting the scene for public spending cuts, we will have to keep on campaigning to defend public services.