CIPD: Last straw for ‘demoralised and demotivated’ workforce, says union. Hundreds of thousands of NHS workers are prepared to take part in strike action over pay in England, Unison has confirmed.
Nearly 70 per cent of the union’s members, who include nurses, occupational therapists, porters, paramedics, and healthcare assistants, voted ‘yes’ to strike action, with 88 per cent voting for industrial action short of a strike.
Unison’s general secretary, Dave Prentis, said the government’s decision to deny NHS staff a universal one per cent pay rise, despite recommendations from the independent pay review board, had “angered” his members.
“We know health workers don’t take strike action lightly or often,” he said. “But we also know a demoralised and demotivated workforce isn’t good for patients.”
For the first time it its history, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has also balloted its members, along with GMB and Unite, whose results are expected in the next few weeks.
Up to 400,000 NHS workers could take industrial action, depending on the outcome of union ballots.
Unison, which has 300,000 NHS members, said they would work with NHS employers to minimise the impact on patients, in the result of a strike.
But Gill Bellord, director of employment relations and reward at NHS Employers, said the yes-vote was “disappointing for the NHS” and said she was concerned for “thousands of patients who rely on its services.”
“We completely understand the frustration of many staff following a prolonged period of pay restraint but patient safety must always be our first priority,” she said.
“I would strongly urge unions to take patients out of this dispute and instead continue constructive discussions, exploring ways to come out of this period of pay restraint in a sustainable way.”
The last time NHS workers took strike action over pay was in 1982, when staff walked out for three-days.
NHS staff in Scotland will receive a blanket one per cent pay rise, as per the review recommendations, and Wales has given extra money to the lowest paid employees.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “We are disappointed that Unison is planning industrial action and has rejected our proposals to give NHS staff at least 1 per cent pay this year and at least a further 1 per cent next year.”
“NHS staff are our greatest asset and we know they are working extremely hard. This is why despite tough financial times we’ve protected the NHS budget and now have 13,500 more clinical staff than in 2010.
“We want to protect these increases and cannot afford incremental pay increases – which disproportionately reward the highest earners – on top of a general pay rise without risking frontline NHS jobs.
“We remain keen to meet with the unions to discuss how we can work together to make the NHS pay system fairer and more affordable.”
Unison said it would coordinate with the 10 unions balloting in the NHS over pay to decide when and what type of action to take.