Unite members today gave our verdict on three years of pay cuts – with a magnificent 94.8% voting to reject. Members also voted in favour of moving now to a formal ballot on industrial action.
The overwhelming vote to reject didn’t come from nowhere. Unite has taken a principled line throughout this pay campaign, with real leadership being shown by our national officers and our leading lay activists alike. The sense of unity has been impressive. The result? When members believe that their union is on their side, they vote for a fightback.
A clear majority of NHS unions have voted now to reject this miserable pay offer. Importantly, Unite members have indicated a willingness to take industrial action. I wouldn’t necessarily expect indefinite industrial action, but it’s brilliant to see that the mood’s there for a real fight. An important job for our lay activists now is consulting with members on what form of industrial action will be most effective.
Could the Government impose the deal? They’d be crazy if they did. Unison’s ‘FACT AND FICTION’ publication last month stated bravely, ‘If UNISON and RCN members support it, there will be an agreement’. Back in May, this just looked unhelpful. Now, as union after union votes to reject, the assertion looks very unconvincing indeed. The message from health workers is becoming clear. We’re not going to accept three years of pay cuts.
There’s an unanswered question here, of course. My partner was chairing a Unite South London Activists meeting tonight. A health visitor at the meeting expressed disbelief when told that around 95% of Unite members had voted to reject. She said in bewilderment, ‘Well, who on earth were the 5%?’ !