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From: The Socialist issue 835, 26 November 2014: 14 day deadline to breadline

Search site for keywords: NHS - Strike - Pay - Health - Woolwich - Wales - Unions - Southampton - Unison - Unite - Hospitals - Cleaners - Midwives - Mental health - Nurses - London - Privatisation - GMB - Gateshead - Salford - Leeds

Health workers walkout in second NHS pay strike

Midwives in Gateshead, photo E Brunskill

Midwives in Gateshead, photo E Brunskill   (Click to enlarge)

Socialist Party members

Nurses, cleaners, porters, midwives, occupational therapists, paramedics, scientists, radiographers, admin, catering, security staff and other NHS staff in England took part in a second four-hour strike on Monday 24 November.

The strike has been followed by six days of 'work to rule'.

Eleven health service trade unions were involved, united against the government's attack on pay, which means a majority of staff won't even receive a miniscule 1% pay rise.

One nurse on the picket line at Gateshead's Queen Elizabeth hospital said emergency cover was being given on her ward. However, she went on to say that, in reality, this meant the same cover as any other day as the service was constantly run on a bare minimum.

Unite members explained that the QE hospital is privatising their estates department. From 1 December, 52 workers will be employed by a new company, QE Facilities Ltd.

NHS picket in Southampton, photo Nick Chaffey

NHS picket in Southampton, photo Nick Chaffey   (Click to enlarge)

Pickets were out across Southampton, supporting the fight against the austerity pay freeze at the Royal South Hants, Southampton General and Princess Anne hospitals, with militant midwives in the biggest numbers.

There were calls for the unions to organise more effective action and give a convincing lead, showing that they mean business.

Horror stories a plenty were told on how the NHS is riddled with the privatisation profit-virus. 50 mental health patients had been farmed out to the private sector while wards were closed due to staffing shortages.

Leeds radiographers, photo Leeds SP

Leeds radiographers, photo Leeds SP   (Click to enlarge)

There were well over 100 pickets in total at Leeds General Infirmary and St James hospitals. John Rattigan, an operating department practitioner and Unite rep at LGI (personal capacity) said: "People at the top of their band, such as myself, get a 1% pay rise that's unconsolidated, which is a one-off, so it's not a real pay rise.

"But we're also here for low paid members of staff. The kitchen staff were TUPE'd across to a private contractor. Although they were at the time given guarantees about their conditions, I was speaking to someone recently and she's now on the minimum wage, just 6.50 an hour."

In Salford, a Unison health service activist told the Socialist: "I would like a timetable of strike action between now and May. Jeremy Hunt's made it quite clear he's not willing to negotiate with the unions, I think we need to build on the action, escalate it, and carry it forward to at least the general election, until our demands are met."

Taunton ambulance station, photo S German

Taunton ambulance station, photo S German   (Click to enlarge)


Wales strike cancelled

Welsh health union leaders have suspended NHS Wales strike action after welcoming a two year offer from the Labour Welsh government.

The offer includes a cash payment this year, all workers to receive at least the 7.85 living wage from January and a 1% pay rise from April.

But, as a Unison Wales' Dawn Bowden said: "Clearly this agreement does not make up for the real term loss that NHS workers have suffered in recent years". Many NHS Wales workers will be asking why the strikes have been called off and the unions aren't fighting for more.


Woolwich ISS workers

Over 200 GMB members working for ISS at Woolwich hospital, south London, took 48 hours of strike action on 24 and 25 November to demand the same pay, weekend enhancement and unsocial hour rates as workers employed directly by the NHS Trust.

This was the second walkout following a 24-hour strike on 8 October. But this time the ISS workers started their pickets alongside NHS employees taking part in the four hour national strike.

The ISS workers, including cleaners, security staff, ward hostesses, caterers, switchboard operators and porters, are paid as low as 7.10 an hour. Directly employed NHS staff start at a minimum of 7.33 an hour, which then increases in yearly increments to 7.51 and 7.69.

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