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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.

Nurses taking effective strike action without endangering patients is a lot easier than you might think!
The starting point is recognising there are normal times when staffing levels and activity are lower than the busiest times.  Hospitals routinely expect staff to cover emergencies through the night on minimum staffing levels.  On weekends and Bank Holidays activity levels drop to a minimum.nurse

On the adult mental health admission ward where I work, all the Unison members (all but one of the non-medical staff) struck if they were on duty, or showed support by respecting and supporting the picket lines on 13th October and 24th November.  This included the ward manager and modern matron!  Nursing staff on other wards  and in the community struck to  leave a Christmas day service.  No harm came to any patients in the core services that had to remain open.

There is a recipe for quality patient care.  First take lots of people with a good basic education and give them a good training to meet the huge variation in needs they are likely to encounter in meeting the health needs of a population of 65 million people.  Preferably do this for free so they don’t start work worrying about how they are going to pay off their debt  - staff distracted with money worries haven’t got their mind fully on the job.

The Living wage is a key part of this year’s pay claim. We want it to apply to NHS staff and those employed by contractors and employment agencies. But this will not be won without leadership from low paid workers and strong community and political support. Oxford’s Labour City Council supports the Living Wage for its own workforce and requires contractors to pay it. They believe all local employers should pay it.

We organised a public meeting at Oxford Town Hall 18th November to begin to build a broad campaign
Speakers were (left to right below): Imran (UNISON Steward, John Radcliffe Hospital), Wendy Bond (member of Living Wage Commission), Councillor Van Coulter (Oxford City Council) and Roger McKenzie (UNISON Assistant General Secretary).

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This is important – please read if you work on commission, work overtime, receive a bonus, shift premium or any other payment that is not paid for holiday periods.

The European Court has recently ruled in a UNISON case that workers ought not to suffer financially when they take annual leave.  This means that if you receive any of the above payments or any other additional payments when you are at work (other than expenses) but do not receive them for periods when you are on holiday, you may be able to claim back pay in respect of non-payment of these additional sums. 

Needless to say employers will be seeking to limit the amounts they have to pay out in back pay so people who think they are affected need to complete a CASE form as soon as posible to allow Unison solicitors to lodge a claim on their behalf.

You can download a CASE form here to make a claim.

For NHS staff their additional unsocial hours payment for annual leave is often paid monthly as a fraction of their total unsocial hours payment.  the fraction is 12.5% and usually appears as WTD.  if you have other bonuses that are only paid when you are working and the 12.5% is not   applied you may have a claim. Some ancillary staff at the OUHT are paid overtime and their is no additional fraction aded suggesting they are not paid the overtime when on annual leave.

UNISON Oxfordshire Health Branch has organised a public meeting at Oxford Town Hall 7pm on 18th November to step up the pay campaign and particularly the battle to win the Living Wage of at least £8.59 an hour. Come along and get your views across!

Speakers: Imran (UNISON Steward, John Radcliffe Hospital), Wendy Bond (member of Living Wage Commission), Councillor Van Coulter (Oxford City Council) and Roger McKenzie (UNISON Assistant General Secretary).