Unite, the country’s largest union, confirmed today (Friday 16 May) the ballot dates for the consultative ballot of its health service members over possible strike action on the controversial ‘divide and rule’ pay offer.
Ballot papers will be landing on members’ doormats from today on whether they want to take action as a result of their derisory pay offer. The ballot will close on Friday 30 May.
Depending on the outcome, Unite will proceed to a full industrial action ballot. This would open in June, with industrial action commencing the following month across the NHS.
Unite has 100,000 members in the health service and will be balloting its members in England, and Northern Ireland. Unite’s health service members in Wales have already been consulted on the pay issue and, more generally, their terms and conditions and have by more than 90 per cent rejected the pay offer.
Unite won’t be balloting its members in Scotland where the devolved government has agreed to pay the one per cent pay rise to all staff as recommended by the independent Pay Review Body (PRB). However, members in Scotland will be joining the campaign over how pay is determined in the future, and how long term cuts in NHS pay can be redressed.
The go-ahead for the consultative ballot was confirmed at a ‘very positive’ meeting of Unite’s national health industrial sector committee.
Unite said that it has never had such angry feedback from its members, following the announcement on pay in March, which meant that 600,000 NHS employees received no cost of living pay rise on 1 April.
Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: “At a very positive meeting of the national health sector committee, it was decided that the strength of feeling by our members demanded a consultative ballot at what is a very insulting ‘divide and rule’ pay offer.
“We will be urging our members for a decisive mandate to move to the next stage of a full industrial ballot with the prospect of industrial action in July.
“July is the month that marks the 66th anniversary of the birth of the NHS, whose ethos is being comprehensively undermined by ministers intent on privatising the health service as fast possible by the time of next year’s general election.
“Our members are taking this action reluctantly and with a heavy heart, but they feel they have no choice given the contempt that health secretary Jeremy Hunt has shown to the dedicated NHS workforce.”
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 1.3 million NHS workforce will have 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.
For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940.
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.