‘If there are no staff left in the NHS, there is no NHS. The fight on pay is not just about bettering our own conditions but is directly linked to patient safety and preventing the NHS from being privatised.’
Holly Johnston is a Sister in Oncology, a GMB rep, a founding member of NHS Workers Say NO and a committee member of Health Campaigns Together
Health unions united in rejecting pay award
Health Unions have united in recommending their members reject the paltry pay award imposed on NHS staff in July. The £1400 per year increase is another below inflation pay cut and the three months back pay received in September has pushed many staff on bands 3, 5 and 8 into the next pension bracket. Some have ended up worse off, and all of us will face the reality of the pay ‘increase’ being eaten up by soaring energy and fuel bills and jumps in the mortgage interest rates
The largest unions are disaggregating their formal ballots in a bid to achieve some definite strike action where there is appetite. This will hopefully affect the national picture and give confidence to the rest of the sector.
GMB have finished their consultative ballot and will be opening their formal strike ballot over pay on 24 October until 29 November.
The union will be balloting members in the ambulance service and some trusts where there were higher turnouts.
Unite union are also balloting the ambulance service and trusts with the highest turnouts.
The RCN formal ballot opened on 6 October and runs to 2 November. It seems there has been lots of campaigning and phone banking to encourage members to vote. There are lots of resources and materials on their website and their ballot dates co-ordinate with the RCN in Scotland.
Unison open their formal strike ballot on 27 October and it runs until 25 November. There has been a big difference from last year in the amount of campaigning and Unison are actively encouraging their members to vote ‘yes’ to industrial action and achieved encouraging results in their ‘Pledge Yes’ campaign.
Staff that have previously never considered strike action are now voting to strike as they realise things will only continue to get worse for staff and patients.
Food banks for staff
Hospitals across the country have set up food banks for staff and have begun offering emergency loans to help staff who are under financial pressure. Working agency shifts to meet the shortfall in NHS pay has become the norm and the majority of staff work agency shifts to make ends meet, leading to even quicker burnout amongst staff who are already overworked.
Outsourced staff working for private companies have also been fighting for better pay and conditions, highlighting that privatisation is not the answer to our problems, all while having less workers’ rights.
Zero-hour contracts have risen dramatically over the last year and there have been reports from union members of being put onto zero-hour contracts due to childcare needs or after retirement. These staff have had no alternative and the increase in these contracts will prove to not be beneficial to staff over time.
The fight from the unions and the government opposition needs to be to return all outsourced workers back in-house and on Agenda for Change contracts. By addressing the staffing crisis, precarious contracts and conditions for staff will improve.
Unions and staff are recognising that the pay award imposed by the government is nowhere near enough to help deal with the cost of living crises or the staffing crisis we have in the NHS. Staff are leaving at an alarming rate; 40,000 nurses alone have left in the last year.
If we don’t address the pay erosion thousands have faced in the NHS, NHS staff will simply leave which leaves the door open for private companies, for staff to be outsourced and an increase in zero-hour contracts.
If there are no staff left in the NHS, there is no NHS. The fight on pay is not just about bettering our own conditions but is directly linked to patient safety and preventing the NHS from being privatised.
It is clear that NHS workers have had enough. A statement by NHS Workers Say NO! reads
NHS staff do not reach the decision to strike lightly. We are voting because we have had enough of our patients receiving unsafe care, in an understaffed and underfunded service which is rapidly being sold-off for profit. like the rest of the UK, NHS staff are overdue an above-inflation pay rise. We were heroes during the pandemic, yet as soon as we try to improve our pay and conditions, we become the enemy.