Thousands of health workers in Wales have a chance from today (Tuesday 26 August) to send a strong message of protest to the Welsh Government and the UK government over their stance on NHS pay.
Ballot papers for health service members of Unite in Wales, England, and Northern Ireland will start landing on doormats from today asking them whether they wish to take strike action or industrial action short of a strike over pay.
Unite, Wales’ largest union, is balloting its members over industrial action which may include strike action in the autumn over the devolved government’s insufficient pay offer, which is intended to be unilaterally imposed in Wales in either September or October and proposed cuts to terms and condition of employment. The ballot closes on 26 September.
In Wales, the devolved government has agreed to a ‘living wage’ for all staff and an imposed one-off payment of £160, ignoring the independent Pay Review Body’s (PRB) recommendation of one per cent for all staff.
It is not just the issue of pay which has so angered Unite members in Wales, but also proposed introduction of cuts to sick pay entitlements for a number of staff, a reduction in mileage allowances below the rate at which the rest of the UK can claim and the introduction of what is, in effect, performance related pay.
Unite does recognise the challenging situation in which the Welsh Government finds itself as a result of decisions made by Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Westminster.
However, Unite feels that there is more that the normally progressive Welsh Government could do to lessen the impact of the Westminster austerity measures on NHS staff in Wales and the union is calling on it to seriously reconsider the pay award and the cuts to terms and conditions.
Unite is joining other health unions in making a major stand on pay. It is estimated the 1.3 million workers in the NHS across the UK have seen their pay fall by up to 15 per cent in real terms since the coalition came to power in May 2010.
Unite has 100,000 members in the health service, of which about 6,000 are in Wales.
Unite lead officer for health in Wales Richard Munn said: “Never have our members expressed such anger as they have on the pay and terms and conditions issue. The Welsh Government has treated these hard working health professionals terribly, totally ignoring the increasing gap between wages and the cost of living.
“Our members have an opportunity from today to vote in favour of industrial action and send a stark message to the Minister for Health and Social Services Mark Drakeford that the Welsh Government should award our members what was recommended by the PR for NHS workers across the UK and not implement the proposed cuts to terms and conditions.
“We are confident of a positive result from our Welsh members. But we also wish to reassure the public that any industrial action will be carefully calibrated to balance the anger that our members feel about their shrinking pay packets, with abiding concern for patient care which is key for the health professionals we represent.”
The pay situation is at different stages in the four countries of the UK: in England, there was a ‘divide and rule’ one per cent offer which meant that 600,000 NHS employees received no cost of living pay rise on 1 April 2014. In Northern Ireland, there has been no decision made on pay
In Scotland, the devolved government has agreed to pay the one per cent pay rise to all staff as recommended by the PR and to implement the ‘living wage’ by paying an extra £300 to low paid workers. Unite has accepted this and will, therefore, not be balloting its members in Scotland.
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
• 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.