Thirty Unison members working in the Central De-Contamination Unit in Ayrshire Central Hospital (Irvine) staged a 48-hour strike on 13-14 March as part of the union’s ongoing campaign in defence of NHS pensions in Scotland.
The unit had been opened just a week earlier by Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon.
“She was happy to meet the staff then, have the plaudits, have the photo opportunities. This week, she’s chosen to ignore us. Rather than come and discuss the pensions issue, she decided to put the legislation through Parliament the same day,” said Unison rep Elaine McLeod.
Unison is demanding “a Scottish solution to all aspects of pensions changes, including the year one increases to employee contributions of up to 2.4% (due to take effect on 1 April).”
The strike action in Irvine is due to be followed up by further selective action in Lanarkshire, Lothian and Greater Glasgow, beginning on 27 March.
According to the current issue of Unison’s “Scottish Pensions Bulletin”, the first negotiating meeting with the Scottish government is due to take place on 28 March.
That Unison is continuing with a campaign of industrial action in defence of its members’ pension rights is to be unconditionally welcomed. But the information currently available raises a number of questions.
Why a gap of a fortnight between the first and second selective strike action? What action, if any, is being taken by other unions with members in the NHS in Scotland (most obviously Unison)?
While Unison continues its campaign of selective strike action, the Executive Committee of the EIS (the main teachers union in Scotland) has decided not to stage a 24-hour strike on 28 March.
74% of members who took part in the recent ballot on industrial action had voted in favour of a strike, on a turnout of 38%. But last week’s meeting of the Executive Committee voted by 12 to 7 not to call a strike.
Factors influencing the vote appear to have been the NUT decision not to stage an all-out strike on 28 March and the relatively low turnout in the ballot. (In the ballot for strike action on 30th November 82% voted for strike action, on a turnout of 54%.)
Bizarrely, a statement issued by the EIS also portrayed the need for strike action on 28 March as effectively superfluous in the light of the decision to enter negotiations with the Scottish government and local authorities:
“As a result of the decision to enter negotiations with the employers’ side on pensions, the EIS Executive Committee
has decided to suspend (sic) plans for a day of industrial action on 28 March.
“Fellow teaching unions south of the border have already decided to suspend national industrial action on this date, which opens the opportunity to consider a Scottish solution on pensions.”