The largest healthcare union has warned of a “winter of unrest for the NHS” as it revealed plans to ballot members for industrial action.
A meeting of the union’s healthcare executive agreed on Wednesday to seek an emergency vote at its annual healthcare conference on 15 April to obtain permission to ballot its 450,000 NHS members over potential industrial action. The move is a response to the government’s imposed pay deal.
“The decision represents a significant step towards a summer and indeed winter of unrest for the NHS”
In a letter to health secretary Jeremy Hunt, Unison’s head of health Christina McAnea said NHS staff “feel they have been treated unfairly and with contempt”.
She added: “A motion will be put to the floor, calling on the union to initiate a national challenge to your pay policy. Our members care deeply about their patients and the services in which they work and do not consider or take formal industrial action lightly,” she said.
“In my view, the decision from our health executive yesterday represents a significant step towards a summer and indeed winter of unrest for the NHS.”
She urged the health secretary to “pull back from the brink” and reconsider his position.
The action follows the health secretary’s decision to reject a 1% pay deal for all staff last month.
Under the imposed deal staff eligible for an incremental rise will receive no separate cost of living pay rise while those staff at the top of their pay band will receive temporary, non-consolidated 1% pay rises in this year and the next.
On 14 March Mr Hunt offered to give staff a permanent 1% pay rise over the next two years if the unions agreed to a freeze on incremental pay in 2015-16. He made a similar offer in a letter sent towards the end of March, in which he called on unions agree to negotiate further alterations to the Agenda for Change contract in return for better basic pay.
Nursing Times understands Unison will reject the offer of a deal as part of plans to prepare for possible industrial action.
The government claims the imposed deal will save £200m this year and is vital to protect frontline jobs.