The NHS is to experience strike action over salaries. This is the first time in 32 years and is due to staff anger over the denial of a 1% salary increase by Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary.
About 500,000 personnel, including midwives and nurses, represented by up to nine unions, are prepared to partake in action during next month.
A four-hour walkout, between 7am and 11am, will be staged by staff on Monday, October 13. Other industrial action will be taken, such as insisting on rest breaks and not working unpaid overtime, on the four days thereafter.
The decision to undertake the industrial action is due to be announced by Unison on Wednesday, since participants in a ballot had voted two to one in favour of the action.
Depending on the result of the pending ballots, Unison, which represents 300,000 NHS staff in England, may be joined in the protest by Unite, the representative of 100,000 NHS staff, the Royal College of Midwives and the GMB, which each has around 300,000 member in England. The ballot results, which are due over the next two weeks, are expected to produce majorities in favour of the industrial action.
Last year, the NHS Pay Review Body recommended a 1% pay increase for 2015/15, however Jeremy Hunt ignored this advice and decided that only certain staff members would be given a small increase as many personnel would receive an increase via pay progression or the long-standing system of the service. This is based on experience and skills which the coalition intends scrapping.
According to the unions, there will be no action that may compromise patient safety. This implies that members of the Royal College of Midwives would not leave their posts during the four-hour stoppage period if they were caring for a female in labour. Similarly, nurses who belong to Unison, caring for patients based in intensive care units would continue working.
The NHS hospital trusts may experience difficulty on the other four days of action, if the staff insist on being paid for overtime, and the demand for care services increases.
NHS managers and members of the British Association of Occupational Therapists may also strike on 13 October, if the action is endorsed by the members.
Unions are legally obliged to give NHS employers at least one week’s notice of their plan to take industrial action.
The Department of Health said that it was looking at a fairer system for NHS salaries, but could not afford to offer increases to all staff members. They stated their disappointment in the planned industrial action, after their proposals of 1% this year and a further 1% next year was rejected.
The department is keen to meet with the unions to try and find common ground regarding pay systems and increases.
Image Credit: Paul Wilkinson