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NHS workers to stage pay protest as union ballots get under way

Unions will deliver a giant envelope to the Department of Health today to mark the start of a ballot on industrial action, including strikes, in a bitter row with ministers over NHS pay.

Members of Unison will stage the protest at the department’s head office in London, as ballot papers are sent to 350,000 of its members in England.

The ballot opens on 28 August and closes on 18 September. It asks members whether they want to take industrial action, inlcuding strikes, or industrial action short of strikes.

Fellow union Unite is already balloting their health members after the coalition government controversially decided not to accept a recommended 1% pay rise for all staff on Agenda for Change. The Unite ballot opened on Tuesday.

The Royal College of Midwives is also set to launch a similar ballot next month – for the first time in its history. The GMB is also due to ballot its NHS members.

“We are asking our members to vote yes to turn their anger into action”

Dave Prentis

The ballot results are due at the end of September, and depending on the results industrial action is likely to take place in October.

Unions estimate that the 1.3 million workers in the NHS have seen their pay fall by up to 15% in real terms since the coalition came to power in May 2010.

Unison said the government’s decision not to accept the review body’s recommendation would mean that 60% of NHS staff, including 70% of nurses, will not receive a pay rise this year.

Dave Prentis, the union’s general secretary, said: “Voting for strike action is never an easy decision – even more so for NHS workers who spend their lives caring for people.

“But the government’s refusal to give the vast majority any pay increase this year is a slap in the face,” he said. “So we are asking our members to vote yes to turn their anger into action.”

“There is still time for the unions to put patients first and accept our offer to come back to the negotiating table”

Department of Health

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Since May 2010, there are 13,500 more clinical staff caring for patients and we want to protect these increases. We cannot afford a general pay rise on top of incremental pay increases without risking frontline jobs.

“We are disappointed that unions are balloting for industrial action,” he said. “There is still time for the unions to put patients first and accept our offer to come back to the negotiating table.”

The union ballots are in response to the government in England’s decision to reject the NHS Pay Review Body’s recommendation to increase the pay of all staff in Agenda for Change by 1%.

Dave Prentis

Ministers have offered a two-year deal in which staff at the top of their pay band will receive 1%, but those due incremental pay awards will get not further rise.

In Wales, nursing staff on Agenda for Change contracts will get a one-off payment of £160 and those not yet at the top of their pay bands will get an incremental pay rise.

The Scottish government is the only UK government so far to accept the recommendations of the independent NHS Pay Review Body to award all staff a 1% consolidated increase.

The Northern Ireland government has yet to announce its arrangements.

The Royal College of Nursing has said it is not planning to ballot its members on strike action.

Readers' comments (11)

  • carnt afford 1%...but can afford 11% for the greedy mp's like hunt

    remember "were all in this together"!!

    I wonder how i'm going to vote!!

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  • We work very hard and under pressure. Staff are not always able to take a break due to increased demand and less staff. I work in mental health and have worked 13 hour shifts without a break due to clinical issues along with my colleagues. As always the public sector is easy pickings for the Government not to give a pay rise and to renegade on previous agreements on pay. A shortage of nurses is a real concern.

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  • definitely time that nurses worked to rule- pure basic nursing care (ADL's, like many years ago), prevent emergency's and nothing else!!! See how most departments/ wards etc grind to a halt!!! and if the government may sweat and their time targets then!!!!!!!

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  • It is time for us to stand up and be counted, this is our last chance to do something postive for the future of our profession

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  • I am working longer and longer hours for less and less pay. My efforts are paying for bonuses for the executives 8% in the Trust I work for and I greatly resent it, they are the new 'fat cats' just like the greedy bankers.
    If we do nothing we will only have ourselves to blame when the government continues to walk all over us, soon it will be too late, there will be no NHS left. Support the Unions they are trying to help us!

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  • A simple choice:

    1. Stand up and be counted

    2. Be treated as a doormat

    I know which way I'll be voting.

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  • Why have so few people commented? This is such an important issue for all nurses that there should be hundreds of comments. Do you really not care about your pay and terms & conditions?

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  • Go Unison!

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  • My ballot was sent back yesterday. Yes to strike, yes to action, yes to standing up and being counted rather than continuing as "simpering angels" who just put up and shut up when repeatedly being shafted.

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  • “There is still time for the unions to put patients first and accept our offer to come back to the negotiating table”
    Department of Health

    That's precisely why nurses have to ballot and escalate industrial action so that patients care do come first and are better supported in the future. Government had made their choice and must live with the consequences of their actions.
    There will be people not liking what's going on, some are suffering now, more might later but it's been going on for too many years.
    Imagine what if there's no nurses left to work in community and hospitals, due to working in greener pastures.

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  • 'Were all in this together' MP's have just awarded themselves a 9% pay rise (we got a 1% non-consolidated pay rise).

    Marcial Boo, chief executive of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), said MPs did an important job and should not be paid a "miserly amount".

    Soooo what are the unions going to do about that then? I don't hold out much hope, we will be shafted the same as this years pay rise, mainly because nurses havent the guts to strike or even bother to ballot. FORGET IT!

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