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In reality, NHS workers have had a 20% pay cut over a decade of Tory governments. Our goodwill has been taken for granted, and many staff will stay over their time without pay to look after sick patients. This has only been exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis.
NHS workers are angry at the crisis made worse by years of cuts and at the government's imposed 3% NHS pay rise - a real-terms pay cut. The government is always saying how it values us as healthcare workers, but they are not willing to give us a proper pay rise. They would rather see healthcare workers working a second job and even using foodbanks just to survive.
Unison, the biggest union in the NHS, held a consultative ballot over pay in the summer. 80% of those who voted rejected the pay offer. Socialist Party activists in Unison, including those on the national executive council, argued that the union should move to a strike ballot.
Unfortunately, the union's leadership chose to move to a second consultative ballot, running the risk of diluting the mood of many health workers. The leadership of the Royal College of Nursing has also moved to a second consultative ballot.
Since the summer, the situation for health workers has got worse. The 3% offer is now worth less, with inflation rising towards 5%. The winter crisis, coupled with Covid, has only increased the pressure at work. With a decisive lead from the union tops, a strike ballot can be won.
Activists are working hard doing stalls and talking to members to get a majority in favour of strike action in this consultative ballot. We hope this will pressure Unison's leaders to go forward into a full industrial ballot.
As health workers we need to unite across the NHS unions. To build a movement, not just for industrial action within the NHS, but of all public sector and social care workers for a decent pay rise and fully funded public services.
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National Education Union (107)
National Shop Stewards Network (456)
New Education Union (1)
Society of Radiographers (1)
Wales Shop Stewards Network (1)
Wales TUC (8)
Article dated 1 December 2021
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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