NHS staff set for day of action in pay protest

NHS union members are set to disrupt health services across the region this week as part of a day of protest over pay.

Members of Unite have voted to work to rule tomorrow, which includes a ban on non-essential paperwork, emailing, attending meetings, taking calls and using their mobile phones for work.

The Government has offered a 2.5 per cent per year pay rise deal until 2010, which Unite leaders claim is a three year pay cut for some of the lowest paid workers in the country and those hit hardest by spiraling prices for food and fuel.

Mark Young, regional lead officer for Unite in the West Midlands said the protest, which is part of a national dispute, was over a “derisory” three-year pay deal imposed by the Government.

“This dispute was brewing well before the present financial crisis when the Government overruled the recommendation of the independent Pay Review Body and imposed their ‘below inflation’ deal for three years in the spring,” said Mr Young.

“Since then, Unite has repeatedly asked ministers to reopen talks on the deal, so that our hardworking NHS members receive a fair pay rise for the dedication they give 365 days a year to keep the NHS a world-class institution.

“Our requests for talks have been meet with a deafening silence.”

Unite members voted by three-to-one in favour of industrial action and by a smaller margin for strike action.

NHS workers were particularly upset over a below inflation deal at a time when household bills for gas and other energy services were rising.

They argue that mortgage interest costs have risen by 8 per cent in the year to April 2008, energy suppliers have increased tariffs by around 15 per cent in recent months and public transport fares have shot up by 4.5 per cent.

Mr Young added: “No-one wants this action. It is a last resort. But when ministers rip up the recommendation of an independent pay review body, there is no alternative.

“Whatever the inflation rate, it still does not detract from the fact that ambulance staff, paramedics, mental health nurses, speech and language therapists, health visitors, school nurses, laboratory staff, bio-scientists and maintenance staff need to be paid a decent salary.”

Unite represents health sector workers from health visitors and pharmacists to sexual health advisers, mental health nurses, psychologists, ambulance staff, dentists, opticians, porters, cleaners and even healthcare chaplains.

Each year, the pay of NHS staff is reviewed by the independent Pay Review Body.

For the current financial year of April 2008 to March 2009, a pay award of 2.75 per cent, half the then inflation rate, was recommended.