It is 8 years since NHS staff had a pay rise to match inflation, 8 years of pay not keeping up with prices, with hundreds of thousands of healthworkers becoming poorer as a result. Now most staff have been denied any pay rise this year or next, and to cap it all the government is demanding the Pay Review Body reduces unsocial hours payments next year.
These attacks are a kick in the teeth for staff who are working harder than ever to meet the growing demand for NHS services at a time that budgets are being cut; when NHS trusts can’t recruit staff and are relying on casual and agency staff to cover vacancies.
The assault on pay alone was enough to push many to support the call by 13 NHS unions to take strike actionon 24th November, but the deteriorating state of patient care and growing concern about the future of the NHS brought an added urgency and stronger support for the action.
Unions are now looking at calling further action in the new year. The upcoming general election offers the opportunity for unions to push the NHS up the agenda to demand a major change of direction away from cuts and privatisation - further action with strong support from union members can open the door to the kind of change we need for the NHS.
Members of Unison, Unite, GMB, Royal College of Midwives and Society of Radiographers were particulalry predominant on Oxford picket lines, which were supported by around 250 staff.