Hundreds of thousands of NHS workers to ballot on strike action over pay

Around 350,000 members of Unison started voting this week on whether to strike over real terms pay cuts.

Fair pay for the NHS

The members work for over 250 health trusts and boards across England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Around 50,000 had already been balloted in Scotland, but the ballot was suspended after the government made a £2,205 salary uplift per worker. Unison will ask its 50,000 members if they are willing to accept the Scottish government’s  flat pay offer. 

The union says the new flat rate offer for NHS Scotland staff represents even less of a wage increase than the 5 percent offer that 89 percent of NHS membership rejected in August.

“Thousands of vital NHS workers have made it clear that they are prepared to take strike action in their fight for better pay. The Scottish government must take notice of the scale of the cost of living crisis confronting our members and take action now to ensure that NHS Scotland can make a better offer. Unless a deal that our members can accept is put together, the Scottish Government must surely recognise that the current dispute will escalate,” said Sharon Graham, Unite’s general secretary.

Now NHS staff across the UK, including nurses, porters, security guards, cleaners, paramedics, midwives, occupations therapists, and other key workers, are being asked if they want to take industrial action.

In July, the UK government announced that NHS staff in England would receive a flat rate increase of £1,400, which would be backdated to April 1. However, with inflation moving towards double figures at the time, the pay rise fell short of meeting the rising cost of living. The pay award was slammed as being ‘nowhere near enough’ by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy,

Unison has urged the new prime minister to live up to his pledge to “strengthen the NHS” by improving on the below-inflation wage boost.

Unison’s general secretary Christina McAnea said striking is the “last thing dedicated health workers want to do.”

Commented on the ballot, McAnea said: “With services in such a dire state, and staff struggling to deliver for patients with fewer colleagues than ever, many feel like the end of the road has been reached.  

“It feels like the NHS is in the last-chance saloon, but a vote for industrial action might be the jolt that convinces ministers to make the NHS the priority they say it is.”

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

Image: Chris Marchant/Flickr

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