NHS nurses and midwives in England will be urged to walkout for 12 hours on 29 January and 24 hours the following month, as union leaders attempt to ratchet up the pressure on ministers over pay.
Unions issued a joint statement today, warning that NHS strikes will be escalated in the New Year and setting out a programme of industrial action.
The statement said there will be strikes in the NHS on 29 January and 25 February 2015. The January strike is scheduled to last 12 hours and that on 25 February for 24 hours.
“We now have no option but to escalate and plan for longer strikes”
Action short of strike action is also planned over a longer period, with union members asked to work to rule across the period between the two strike days.
Unions taking part include Unison, Unite and the Royal College of Midwives.
In adition, ambulance workers from the GMB union in England and Northern Ireland will strike on 29 and 30 January.
The move marks an escalation of the two four-hour stoppages that took place during October and November in England and also Northern Ireland.
It follows the government in England’s decision to ignore recommendations for a blanket 1% pay rise from the NHS Pay Review Body and instead limit it to those staff not due an increment rise.
In contrast, all Agenda for Change staff in Scotland received a 1% rise and unions recently agreed a separate deal with ministers in Wales.
The joint union statement said: “This action is being taken over the Westminster government’s decision not to implement the recommendation of the independent Pay Review Body for the NHS to give all staff 1% for 2014-15 and the fact that the government has stopped the PRB making any recommendation for 2015-16.”
“The RCM calls on employers and Jeremy Hunt to see sense and to enter into urgent negotiations”
The unions claimed they had decided not to take strike action over Christmas and New Year period, as this could have a “serious impact on patient safety”.
Christina McAnea, head of health at Unison and chair of the union staff side council, said: “We warned months ago that this dispute is here to stay unless the government and NHS employers are prepared to negotiate with us.
“Our members’ pay has been frozen or held down for the past five years and there is no end in sight,” she said. “On average, they have lost around 10% in the value of their pay over the life of this parliament.
“We now have no option but to escalate and plan for longer strikes,” she said. “The anger among health workers has reached levels where they are now ready to walk out for 24 hours. NHS staff have been singled out by this coalition government for the worst treatment across the public sector.
“All we are asking is for fair and decent pay for NHS workers,” she added.
“The government has stretched the goodwill of NHS staff to breaking point”
Rachael Maskell, Unite head of health said: “The government’s continued refusal to negotiate on pay has left NHS staff with no option but to step up their fight with more strike action in the new year.
“The government has stretched the goodwill of NHS staff to breaking point,” she said. “Four and a half years of the government’s squeeze on NHS wages led staff to walkout for the first time in more than 30 years over pay in October and again in November.
“Unless [health secretary] Jeremy Hunt urgently establishes proper pay talks for the nation’s nurses, therapists, scientists and support staff, they’ll be forced to escalate their industrial action until the general election,” she added.
Meanwhile, a Royal College of Midwives spokesman said: “The RCM will be escalating its industrial action in the NHS in England because Jeremy Hunt and employers have not engaged in negotiations to settle it.
“The dispute is not with mothers and their families but with employers and this senseless, politically inspired decision to deny NHS staff a fair deal,” he said. “The RCM calls on employers and Jeremy Hunt to see sense and to enter into urgent negotiations aimed at a settlement of this dispute which otherwise will continue.”