Almost 70% of Unison members back walkout over pay
Angry healthcare workers are set to initiate co-ordinated strike action after the biggest health union voted Yes by a clear majority.
Nearly 70 per cent of Unison members in Britain’s health service voted for walkouts in an ongoing row over pay. The union represents nurses, occupational therapists, porters, paramedics, medical secretaries, cooks and healthcare assistants working in hospitals and smaller practices.
Ministers are still nervously awaiting the results of ballots from nine other unions representing administrators, managers, builders and numerous specialist hospital roles.
NHS workers reacted with outrage earlier this year when the government froze wages — ignoring the suggestions of its NHS pay review body.
The few who received a 1 per cent rise were told this would not count towards their pensions. Unison said continued inflation means the value of NHS pay has declined by 12 per cent since 2011.
Staff have not taken industrial action over pay for 32 years.
Last night, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis blasted: “This government’s treatment of NHS workers has angered them and this anger has now turned into action.
“We know health workers don’t take strike action lightly or often.
“But we also know a demoralised and demotivated workforce isn’t good for patients.”
Royal College of Midwives chief executive Cathy Warwick said: “We congratulate Unison on its ballot result today. I am asking our members who are also being balloted on fair pay in the NHS to join their other union colleagues and vote Yes to industrial action.”
But an “employers’ association” representing bosses in the fragmented health service said the strike should be called off.
NHS Employers director of employment relations Gill Bellord said: “We completely understand the frustration of many staff following a prolonged period of pay restraint but patient safety must always be our first priority.
“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 other unions balloting for strike action include the Society of Radiographers, Managers in Partnership, Unite, GMB, the Royal College of Midwives, the British Association of Occupational Therapists, Ucatt and the Hospital and Consultants Specialists Association.
The British Dietetic Association is holding a consultative ballot.