Strike vote is loud wake-up call to the government, says UNISON  

A strike across the NHS this winter isn’t inevitable.

Commenting on the likelihood of strikes across the NHS this winter following the Royal College of Nursing ballot, UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said:

“This is loud a wake-up call to the government. Hundreds of thousands more nurses, paramedics, cleaners, health care assistants and other NHS employees are still to decide if they’ll be striking for better pay and staffing. Now is the time for swift action to avoid a damaging dispute.

“A strike across the NHS this winter isn’t inevitable. Unions want to work with ministers to solve the NHS staffing crisis and its impact on patient care. But that must start with another pay rise for health workers. Otherwise, delays and waits for patients won’t reduce.

“A second wage increase in line with rising prices would ensure staff can provide for their families. It would also stop experienced employees leaving so the NHS can keep caring for patients.

“Inflation has already wiped out this year’s 72p an hour increase. Threats of wage caps next year to make good the damage caused by the previous government’s economic incompetence will only make a bad situation significantly worse.

“NHS managers are fighting a losing battle. They know pay and the lack of staff are the main reasons why health workers are leaving at alarming rates. The NHS cannot keep patients safe without improving staffing levels. Boosting pay is a crucial first step in dealing with the NHS workforce crisis.

“The government must put pay right to spare the NHS, its staff, and all those relying on its care, from a dispute no one wants to see.”

Note to editors:
– In July, the government in Westminster announced that most NHS staff on Agenda for Change contracts (NHS terms and conditions) in England would get a pay rise of £1,400, in line with the recommendation of the NHS pay review body. This amounted to a 4.75% increase to the NHS pay bill. Health workers had been due a wage rise on 1 April 2022. Health workers in Wales got the same award. The health minister in Northern Ireland said he wanted to implement the same award but could not do so due to the political stalemate. This means NHS workers there have had no pay rise at all. In Scotland, UNISON has been balloting its 50,000 health members recommending rejection of a 5% offer from the Edinburgh government. But following an improved offer last month of a £2,205 flat-rate increase, UNISON’s health committee in Scotland decided to suspend its strike ballot. That offer is currently being put to UNISON members in a digital consultative ballot that closes next week. UNISON’s ballot of health staff working for more than 250 NHS employers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland launched on 25 October. That vote closes in Northern Ireland on 18 November, and a week later (25 November) in England and Wales.
– UNISON and most other health unions had called for an above-inflation pay rise in their submission to the NHS pay review body.
– Other unions either balloting or planning to ballot for industrial action in the NHS include the Royal College of Midwives, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, GMB and Unite.
– To achieve a legal strike ballot, UK law requires unions to jump a variety of hurdles. In addition to requiring 50% of the workers being balloted to participate in any vote, the law demands that in very important public services, like many parts of the NHS, 40% of those sent ballot papers must vote yes. Unions are also unable to conduct strike ballots electronically. All ballot papers must be sent out in the mail and returned by post.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contact:
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: