Unite Health Sector Pay Fight: One step forward, one step back

Two important meetings of Unite lay activists took place this week to decide the way forward in our fight for fair pay for health workers. The meetings follow our very good campaign on pay, delivering ‘Yes’ votes for strike action and for industrial action short of strike action.

A meeting of senior union officials took place before these meetings. The position decided by officials seems to have been to discourage strike action, even though we have a mandate for it. In both the lay meetings, the emphasis of the key National Officer was very much on the problems, difficulties and reasons why strike action was not the way to go. The alternative suggested to us was a one day work to rule/ day of action on 3rd December, with further action to be decided after this.

Many of our senior lay activists are well aware that we will need strike action in order to win this fight – although there are real disagreements on whether we should go for strike action now or later.  After much debate, the joint national committees of Amicus and TGWU Health members agreed a resolution supporting the day of action on 3rd December, to be followed by further action ‘up to and including strike action’ in January if the Government has not made necessary concessions.

A longer report on the meetings is here.

So where are we now? It’s a mixed picture. Unite’s stance on pay has been a principled one, in terms of rejecting the truly rotten three year package negotiated by other unions and imposed by the Government. We’ve run a strong campaign, and delivered ‘Yes’ votes for strike action and for industrial action short of strike action as a direct result of this. We’re going for the one day of work to rule – fine, but the chances of this forcing the Government to make concessions are minimal. If we’re serious about delivering fair pay for our members in Health, we have to be prepared to take strike action; strike action with any other public sector union we can make common cause with, or strike action on our own if we have to. If our senior officials block this, they need to be challenged. It’s our pay that’s at stake here, not theirs.

The other thing we might want to do, of course, is to review how sensible it is to have donated £15 million to the Labour Party since the 2005 general election, and to have received so little in return. The money poured into the Labour Party’s coffers is a growing source of dismay amongst our members in Health.

The money’s there for bankers. The money’s there for war. Why can we not pay our health workers a decent wage?

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