Mike Fenwick, Airedale UNISON Health Branch (PC)
Five months of negotiation since the initial offer of a staged 2.5% have produced no real results. Staging the deal meant that it would be worth only 1.9%. So health service staff were being offered less than the governments own suggested raise. It meant Alan Johnston and the treasury would save millions. And allowed a little wiggle room from which a few extra enticements could be found.
So the final offer now includes a little extra for the lowest paid, some contribution toward professional registration fees and an additional training allowance of £25 per employee. Overall still a pay cut.
More threateningly the government wants to make this year the basis for a three year deal capped at 2%. With inflation at nearly 5% now that could mean at the end of three years a 10% pay cut in real terms for NHS staff. To this they also want to add a productivity deal... meaning asking staff to work more for less!
In Scotland, Wales and now Northern Ireland the local governments have agreed to pay the 2.5% unstaged. Whilst that is better, it still represents a pay cut.
The unions are now asking their members to vote on the deal.
The RCN have balloted although their focus has been on getting rid of the staging rather than fighting for an award in line with inflation. The result of their ballot is due soon.
In Unison the Service Group Executive have decided on a consultative ballot, so postponing the industrial action ballot mandated by health conference if the deal was not significantly improved. Only a small minority on the committee voted in line with policy and lost to those who either lack confidence to fight or worse would accept a pay cut for their members.
A campaign to organise a No vote has been set up before ballot papers arrive on 20 August. Based at http://NHSworker.blogspot.com this grassroots group is asking UNISON members to reaffirm their commitment to an above inflation pay rise and organise the fight to win it.
With the postal workers still in dispute, local government workers due to move to a ballot and possible action from teachers and others the possibility exists to create a significant challenge to the pay freeze. But it should also be seen as a challenge to New Labour’s current “commitment” to public services i.e. privatising as much of it as possible. Having a low paid and insecure work force makes it easier to persuade the private sector to buy in.
Reject this deal and use the time to build for the industrial action that will be needed to secure a better future for the NHS and its staff.
Prepare for the ballot by signing the statement at the NHS Worker blog. Download the statement and leaflet and circulate amongst your colleagues.
Organise a workplace meeting to present the case against the pay freeze. Get branch meetings and committees to call early meetings to organise a No Vote.
Link up with other public sector workers and community campaigners in building for the national demo for the NHS on 3 November.