Health workers vote for strike ballot if move to a seven-day NHS is paid for by cutting staff pay

Hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers, including nurses, paramedics, porters, cleaners, cooks, therapists and health care assistants will be balloted for industrial action if a move towards a seven-day NHS means cutting unsocial hours payments.

Delegates at UNISON’s annual health care conference in Liverpool today (Tuesday) gave an overwhelming ‘yes’ vote to an industrial action ballot if any government tried to remove unsocial hours payments.

Speakers spoke passionately about the impact of austerity on their finances and lives, and how reliant on unsocial hours payments they had become to make ends meet.

Worryingly, the Tories have today backed their pledge to extend more NHS services across seven days. Yet once again, there are no plans for funding this. It is clear they expect staff to fund this through taking cuts in their pay.

UNISON head of health Christina McAnea said: “Any move to a seven-day NHS must not cost staff a penny. Our members made their views clear today. Come after our unsocial hours payments and we will ballot for industrial action.

“As the biggest healthcare union, we are always willing to work with employers to improve and extend NHS services if this is based on patients’ needs and is not just another cost-cutting exercise.

“Once again the Tories want working people to pay the price of their austerity agenda.

“Staff already sacrifice their nights and weekends to care for patients and it’s only right that they are fairly rewarded.

“After five years of pay freezes, workers have come to rely on these payments to survive.

“Our members took their first action in 34 years last year over pay. If the Tories get elected in May and come after NHS workers’ pay again. we could be in dispute for the second time in a year.

“This industrial unrest, fear and anger among NHS workers is the real Tory legacy.”

One mental health worker speaking at the conference said: “If band 2 staff lost unsocial hours payments for working weekends and nights they will bring home just £850 a month.” 

A midwife said: “We deserve to be cared for. Unsocial hours payments are neither a bonus nor a perk of the job. We cannot afford not to fight for this.”

A healthcare assistant said: “Without those hours I would lose up to £300 a month.”