Live updates, news and analysis from the first nursing strike over pay in 32 years and the first ever midwife strike
11am The official end of today’s strike. It will now be followed by fours days of working to rule.
“David Cameron’s got to go” was the shout from nurse and Unison branch chair Janet Maiden this morning on the steps of UCLH. A group of around 50-60 protesters in good voice and making their presence felt on the Euston Road.
Meanwhile, around the corner at the Elizabeth Garrett wing 20 or so midwives were also showing their support for better pay. I spoke to RCM steward Anna White who was still in good spirits despite doing a night shift before the protest.
Health workers and general public tweeting split opinions on the strike:
— adjowa adjei (@lovelyadjowa) October 13, 2014
@NursingTimes I don’t believe the NHS should strike . The Armed Forces cannot strike & as front line workers nor should we.
— Chloe (@PUNC14Schloe) October 13, 2014
9.35am An enthusiastic group of about 30 strikers making their voices heard and their union flags seen outside the Whittington Hospital in Archway, North London - despite the rain. Unison’s Claire Dixon keeping everyone’s spirits up on the microphone while colleagues supplied protestors with tea and coffee.
The midwives were out in force with their blue and white brollies and flags, and attracting attention from passers by. Plenty of car horns sounding their support and strikers clearly excited that their local MP had paid them a visit earlier. Everyone I spoke to said they just wanted to be “listened to” by the government.
“The independant pay review body’s recommendation of 1% - it itself not the King’s ransom, still a real pay cut - went some way to recognise that NHS staff have to live and they are stuggling to cope. The Government overturned that recommendation and workers feel insulted and taken for granted.
“Most ordinary people understand the NHS runs on the dedication and professionalism of its staff and if you hit morale, that hits quality of care too.
“This is a false economy, it’s unjust and unfair, and all people are asking for is what the independent pay review body recommended.”
- Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary
”I’m here because I’m feeling it personally, I’ve been downbanded once and with inflation, the value of my wage has gone down aswell. I am now genuinely struggling financially. Having spent 19 years in the NHS, I now need to reconsider what my options are.”
- Simon Spencer, band 6, CPN at Camden Early Intervention Service in Psychosis
”It feels strange striking as it’s the first time midwives have done so. We’re just not sure how effective it will be - the midwives on the wards are still working. We’re more here to show we exist and have opinions than to cause any problems.”
- Declan Symington, midwife, Guys and St Thomas’ NHS FT
A small handful of ambulance workers were on a picket line at Hinchingbrooke by 7am with a larger group of 7 by the main entrance, attracting lots of toots from cars heading towards the public car park. More were expected later after the school drop off.
Most of the group were from the RCM.
Jo Gooderham has been a midwife at Hinchingbrooke for 10 years and a nurse since 1986. She’s never been on strike before.
“The power of feeling of midwives has made midwives go on strike for the first time in 132 years because the government is consistently moving the goalposts regarding pay, pensions and awards. We feel so strongly hard done by we want to strike.”
Sue McGee, a midwife at Himchingbrooke who has worked for 20 years as a midwife, says she has only ever gone on strike in New Zealand before and never in this country. “I’m about to retire but the reason I’m here is to support my colleagues. It’s about succession. It’s not just about colleagues who can’t pay their mortgages, it’s for the women and babies.”
Jo Rust, unison rep for the east of England, says: “The service exists on goodwill. The fact midwives don’t take a break saves the NHS millions every year. At a recent meeting staff spoke at Hinchingbrooke Hospital of the incredibly low morale at the hospital where a culture of fear and bullying has been revealed. To add to that an insulting unconsolidated 1% pay rise, it’s not surprising these staff have come out on strike on an early morning pouring with rain. Meanwhile the directors of Circle are getting huge amounts of money at the expense of NHS staff.”
Steve Sweeney, GMB official, member of Hands off Hinchingbrooke campaign and a nurse, says: “Significantly this is the first NHS hospital to be run by the private sector. Hinchingbrooke should be held up as a mirror of the disaster of NHS being run privately. These workers are the fabric of our society, they look after the sick, healing wounds and delivering our babies. Yet the government see fit to intervene and it is mean spirited of Jeremy Hunt to personally intervene and say no. Hence the first national strike over pay for 32 years. You can see it’s not something health workers do lightly.”
”Those with more experience are more likely to be at the top of their increment, its the staff who have given their lives to the NHS and are at the top of their bands who are missing out. It’s not right.”
- Stephen hack, speech and language therapist, Guys and St Thomas’ NHS FT
7.40am Protesters at Kingston Hospital NHS Trust explain, via the medium of placards, why it’s important to pay midwives a decent wage.
7.30am BBC Breakfast’s Bill Turnbull talks to the health secretary about the strike and the ebola crisis – more on the NHS response to the disease expected later today in parliament.
Jeremy Hunt claims he “absolutely will talk to the unions” about pay, but only if they are prepared to reform the system of increments, which he says is “unfair”. He says that NHS managers would have to lay off 4,000 nurses if the government introduced a blanket 1% pay increase plus incremental pay, noting the recruitment drive in response to the Francis report.
“This would put that into reverse and I don’t think that would be right for patients,” he says. “There are a lot of pressures on the NHS but the most important thing here is doing the right thing for patients.”
So, as yet, no change in the language and rhetoric being used by Mr Hunt then. And unlikely to go down well on the picket lines around the country.
7.20am Here’s a quick round-up of some of the headlines about the strike from the national media. Interpret them how you will:
- NHS staff strike: maternity care among services to be hit (The Guardian)
- NHS strike: Staff begin biggest strike in 30 years over 1% pay row (The Independent)
- NHS strike fiasco: Military drafted in as midwives, nurses and paramedics walk out… but just one in ten back action (Daily Mail)
- As little as one in 10 health workers backed NHS strike (Daily Telegraph)
- Military forces replace NHS staff as workers strike over pay (Daily Express)
- NHS workers strike over pay (Financial Times)
7.13am “This is the last resort for us,” says Unison general secretary Dave Prentis in interview with BBC Breakfast live from Waterloo. He explains why NHS staff are striking and claims the government will not negotiate despite rejecting the process for deciding rises via the NHS Pay Review Body.
“They’ve reneged on a system of determining NHS pay that has meant there has been no dispute over pay for more than 30 years,” he says. “No one will talk to us, no one will listen.” Mr Prentis says the action is “to show the strength of feeling” among staff”.
After what his message to patients is, he says arrangements in place so that patients “do not suffer” but notes they may be “inconvenienced”. “Our dispute is with DH officials and health secretary, not patients,” he adds.
7.06am BBC’s Dominic Hughes with the picket line at Manchester Royal Infirmary, including protesters Val and June, who explain why they are striking but say patients will be safe.
7.01am Wet and windy start to the strike. Hope everyone’s wrapped up warm.
7am Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the NHS pay strike. This is the official start time of the stoppage in England, which is scheduled to last for the next four hours.
Unison has announced details of 133 picket lines in total. This comprises 28 in London, 21 in the South West, 28 in the South East, 23 in the Eastern Region, 33 in the East Midlands and nine in Yorkshire and Humberside. Details are yet to revealed about prostests in the West Midlands and the North.
13 October NHS members of Unison, Unite, the GMB and the Royal College of Midwives will carry out a planned four-hour stoppage in England, between 7am and 11am. Meanwhile, Unite’s NHS members in Northern Ireland will be striking between 11am and 3pm.
Find out more about the build-up to the strike on our special Industrial Action page, which includes a timeline of what happened and when, plus details of the ballot results.
Nursing Times staff will be visiting various picket lines to speak to those striking. Please share your comments on the strike and the pay freeze using the form below.
12 October NHS staff forced to take second jobs, claims union ahead of strike. Over the weekend Unison revealed survey results suggesting one in five NHS workers needed more than one job to make ends meet, with some saying they worked up to 26 extra hours a week.