NHS workers are continuing to organise against the 1% offer on pay, and for a 15% increase. Unison has announced a day of action on 30 March, and Health Workers Say No! are planning activity on 1 April, backed by Unite and the GMB. More information here.
There is also an online day of action on 29 March: see here.
Although the RCN have made a big announcement about their strike fund and all health unions are talking about ballots — Unison has issued an email to consult members informally — realistically any ballots will take place after the NHS pay review body reports in May and the government responds.
Then the unions will formally consult members. That could be as late as June or July. The delay could act as a cooling down period, especially if the government raise their offer a little above 1%, which is likely. Instead, we must use the time to build organisation and solidarity.
NHS workers are angry about the offer. After the year we have had, many will be willing to vote for action. We should aim and work for national action across the NHS. However, the lethargic and divided record of the biggest health unions, poor organisation in many workplaces, and the legal thresholds on ballots are huge barriers to mounting a national dispute.
Work towards to getting a yes vote and organising effective action should include:
• organising cross union rank and file networks that meet regularly and discuss strategy, including how to push the unions towards a unified fight;
• consideration of disaggregated ballots, i.e. a national ballot broken down into units so that even if the thresholds are not passed nationally we can organise action in the places where we meet them. Tory legislation requires both a 50% turnout of those entitled to vote, and, for essential workers, a further barrier of yes votes from 40% of those entitled.
• early consideration of issues such as democratic control of strike action, imaginative action short of strike that was used effectively in the Irish health workers’ strike, and workers’ control of emergency cover.
We should also build solidarity and support within the broader Labour movement, including campaigning for the Labour Party to back the 15% demand and raising the possibility of solidarity action by non-health workers.