NHS members from a second public sector union have voted in favour of strike action over pay, it was announced today.
Unite announced its ballot results this afternoon. In England, 62% of respondents voted in favour of strike action and 77% for action short of a strike. In Northern Ireland, 78% of respondents voted in favour of strike action and 91% for action short of a strike.
Its members will join those of fellow union Unison in a short strike, which is scheduled to take place on 13 October.
Unison and Unite have confirmed that their NHS members in England would stage a four-hour stoppage between 7am and 11am. Meanwhile, Unite members in Northern Ireland will be striking between 11am and 3pm.
“Our members have seen their incomes fall by up to 15% in real terms since May 2010”
Unison members will follow the stoppage with four days of working to rule between 14 and 17 October, and Unite members will do the same between 13 October and 9 November.
The Unite announcement today follows last week’s results from Unison’s ballot, in which 68% of respondents voted in favour of strike action and 88% to action short of striking.
However, questions are being asked by employers over the strength of the mandate that unions have for action. After initially refusing to reveal the level of turnout, Unison has admitted that only 16% of those balloted cast a vote. Unite has so far refused to provide a turnout figure.
Most of the union’s nursing members work in the mental health and health visiting sectors.
Another eight unions are currently balloting NHS members over pay, including the GMB and the Royal College of Midwives. Results are expected over coming days.
The ballots come 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%.
Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: “Our members have seen their incomes fall by up to 15% in real terms since May 2010.
“Now our members have given a resounding rejection to [David] Cameron and his government who vetoed the 1% pay rise, as recommended by the independent Pay Review Body (PRB),” she said.
“The calibrated industrial action is designed to achieve three objectives – to get the 1% rise paid to all 1.3 million NHS staff, respect future PRB recommendations, and obtain the ‘living wage’ to the 40,000 NHS staff being currently paid below that level,” she added.
Gill Bellord, director of employment relations and reward at the NHS Employers organisation, said she was “concerned and disappointed” about strike action in the NHS.
“Unite has yet to reveal details of how many of its members voted, while a very small proportion of members had voted for strike action in Unison’s ballot,” she said.
“We are asking unions to coordinate closely with employers right now, well ahead of the mandatory seven days minimum notice, so that hospitals and other health providers can start planning care,” she added.