Health workers vote for strike ballot

Hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers, including nurses, paramedics, porters, cleaners, cooks, therapists and healthcare assistants, are to be balloted for industrial action over pay. 

Delegates at UNISON’s health care conference in Brighton today gave an overwhelming ‘yes’ vote to a ballot.  Speaker after speaker, angrily condemned the Government’s decision to give a derisory 1% non-consolidated increase only to NHS staff at the top of their incremental scale. This has left 60% of NHS without an increase this year including 70% of nurses.

In a passionate speech calling for a ballot for action, Christina McAnea, UNISON’s Head of Health, said:

“Demand for NHS services is increasing and funding has been cut – regardless of what the Westminster Government says – you know the reality of this and they want you and our members to make up the shortfall by cutting pay and conditions. 

“We are the largest health union, and we take the responsibility that comes with that, very seriously.  Members neither strike often or easily, but this time it feels that we have no choice. 

“We face a Government in England deliberately provoking us into a dispute and so no doubt they are already preparing for this.  So we must be prepared.”

To kick-off the campaign, the union is calling for a day of protest on 5 June, including lunchtime demos at workplaces across the country.

Christina McAnea went on to say:

“Let’s have a day all health unions can be part of and use this day to build support for a resounding yes vote when we ballot for strike action.

“We’re not asking members to strike for 1% we’re saying strike for a pay award that starts to restore the value of your pay,fight for a living wage for all, and because a demoralised and de-motivatedworkforce is not good for patients.”

The value of health workers’ pay has fallen between 10 -14% since the coalition came to power.  Speaking about theimpact of falling pay on staff in the NHS, she said that workers were turning to foodbanks for help and facing dreadful hardship day to day, saying:

“The dread, when you realise your kids need new shoes – or the car needs to be repaired, or just the sheer worry of dealingwith rent and food bills.  My mother used to describe it as a “hand to mouth existence” and that’s still the shocking reality for too many of our members.”

The motion calls for an effective protest against the despicable treatment of health staff in 2014 and calls for bothprotest and formal action up to and including lawful strike action.

Following the decision today the union is committed to drawing up a timetable and long-term plan for events over the summer right up to the general election next year.