As I write on 14 September, neither Unison or the RCN has issued the results of their NHS pay consultations, which closed on 10 and 13 September respectively. The other unions are still in process.
The votes are likely to indicate rejection. Very few workers give positive endorsement to the award, although there is a lack of confidence that anything can be done.
There are rumours of relatively low turnouts, unsurprising given generally poor workplace organisation and limited campaigning by the unions nationally. Even if this is the case, participation will vary between workplaces and sectors. The unions will need to decide if the stronger areas can form the basis for a dispute.
Unison is currently prominently featuring a “lessons from Northern Ireland” article on its website which (alongside some awful other points) makes the case for selective targeted action, suggesting this is a tactic being considered centrally. We have argued for disaggregated ballots in the bigger unions, which can be part of a strategy to building for action.
It’s vital that union decisions are made democratically, with a clear strategy. The unions need to give confidence to health workers and lay out detailed campaign plans for union branches. Activists need to intervene, passing motions supporting a move to formal ballots and campaigns of action, linking pay to workload and continuing to build cross-union organisation on issues of pay, workload and health and safety.