The continual failure of health secretary Jeremy Hunt to engage with NHS staff over their declining pay in real terms has sparked a four-hour strike across the health service in England on 24 November, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Thursday 30 October).
Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: “It is crystal clear that Jeremy Hunt and his government have pulled down the shutters on talks to improve the ever-eroding incomes of the 1.35 million-strong NHS workforce.
“It is a snub to the dedicated and hardworking health professionals that sustain the NHS day in, day out, 365 days-a-year, as demand for services soar.
“The stonewalling of Hunt has energised our members to build on the industrial action they took earlier this month and to strike for four hours on Monday 24 November.”
Unite, along with other health unions and professional organisations, will strike from 07.00 to 11.00 on 24 November. An eight week work-to-rule will also start on 24 November and run to 19 January 2015.
Rachael Maskell said: “Our members are furious that the government vetoed the one per cent pay rise, as recommended by the independent Pay Review Body (PRB).
“Not one of the 1.35 million workforce is getting a cost of living increase and 600,000 are not even getting the one per cent ‘pocket money’ offer.
“Our members were buoyed up by the support they received from the public when they took action this month. Their brave stand certainly rattled ministers.
“Jeremy Hunt continues to mouth platitudes about how much he values NHS staff – and then refuses to talk to the health unions about how to rectify the stark fact that staff pay has been eroded by up to 15 per cent since the coalition came to power in 2010.
“Hunt likes to see himself as Mr Bountiful, when he is, in fact, Mr Scrooge. He needs to get around the table and talk constructively with the unions – otherwise more industrial action is on the cards.
“The latest calibrated industrial action on 24 November is designed to achieve three objectives; to get the one per cent rise paid to all 1.35 million NHS staff; respect future PRB recommendations; and to obtain the ‘living wage’ for the 40,000 NHS staff being currently paid below that level.”
In Northern Ireland, Unite health members will continue to work-to-rule while the union organises further stoppages. This follows the announcement that there would be no cost of living pay rise for healthcare workers under the 2014-15 health budget.
In Wales, talks are continuing between the health unions and the devolved government and no industrial action is currently planned for 24 November.
In Scotland, the devolved government has agreed to pay the one per cent pay rise to all staff as recommended by the PRB and to implement the ‘living wage’ by paying an extra £300 to low paid workers. Unite accepted this and, therefore, did not ballot its members in Scotland.
Unite has 100,000 members in the health service.
For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940 and/or the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065.
Notes to editors:
- Jeremy Hunt’s decision to reject the recommendation of one per cent for all workers by the PRB meant that only those at the top of their band pay received the one per cent increase in April. An estimated 50 per cent of the NHS workforce had to rely on their annual incremental increase, which is not necessarily guaranteed.
- Unite stresses that the incremental increases are in recognition of increased knowledge and skills as staff progress in their careers, with additional performance criteria to be met – and are not part of the annual pay rise process
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.