Unison Health conference (22-24 April) discussed attacks on the NHS, defending “Agenda for Change” (our national pay, terms and conditions), and union organising.
On every issue, the leadership showed their hold over the health sector of the union. The passing of the Section 75 Regulations during the week, which signalled the government’s smashing up of the NHS, went almost unnoticed. There was no real sense amongst most delegates of the NHS crisis or of the battering workers are taking.
The debate on the leadership’s recent sell-out over Agenda for Change (where they accepted attacks to it without any fight at all) summed up the conference. Motions trying to hold the Service Group Executive to account for their actions lost heavily. The leadership’s strategy to give away national T&Cs in the vague hope that this would stave off worse attacks later won the day, despite having already been proven to be unsuccessful (South West Ambulance Service is planning to employ all new starters on non-Agenda for Change contracts from May).
Motions calling for strike ballots on pay were defeated. The leadership’s slight turn towards an “organising agenda” of sorts over the last two years was also reversed, with a return to promoting the union as a service-based, personal insurance provider.
There were good signs of action developing locally with reports of the Mid Yorkshire strike and action within learning disability services in Oxfordshire and East Midlands. Mid Yorks have just announced a new ballot of all 3,000 members which could see more strikes from 10 June.
At a fringe meeting organised by the Healthworker bulletin, it was agreed to promote a 4:1 staffing ratio campaign, and to launch a blog linked to the Health Activist email list.