On Monday 24th November, 11 NHS unions took part in co-ordinated 4 hour strike action against the pay freeze in the health service. This follows seperate 4 hour strikes by Unison, Unite, GMB & the Royal College of Midwives on one day and the Society of Radiographers the following Monday.
Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party
Socialist Party members visited picket lines at the Leeds General Infirmary and St James Hospital where we met a warm response. Socialist Party members estimate that there were well over 100 picketers between the two hospital sites as well as various picket lines at community.
Anger existed not just over the pay freeze, but also the ongoing cutbacks to the health services. At the LGI we were told of how staff hadn’t been replaced in various sectors, meaning that the Estates engineering don’t even have people trained in basic trades such as weding and have to rely on contractors, adding to the further backdoor privatisation of the NHS.
John Rattigan, a operating department practitioner & Unite rep at the LGI (speaking in a personal capacity) gave us his views on the strike
“We’re on strike because we’ve not had a pay rise for many years, and the government have withdrawn the 1% pay rise recommended by the pay review board. Yet MPs have given themselves an 11% pay rise, where they say they have to abide by their pay review board decision.
“They say that people will get their incremental pay rise, but for people at their top of their band, such as myself, then we get a 1% pay rise thats unconsolidated, which is a one of, so it’s not a real pay rise.
“But we’re also here for low paid members of staff. I want to point out the situation of the kitchen staff, as they were TUPE’d across to a private contractor. Although they were at the time given guarantees about their conditions, I was speaking to someone recently and she’s now on the minimum wage, just £6.50 an hour.
“We’re not asking for vast amounts of money, or a life of opulence – we just want to be able to live our lives. People talk about campaigning for a living wage – but even £7.65 an hour is just enough to get by on, thats why the Socialist Party is fighting for £10 and that seems reasonable to me.
“It’s difficult discussing escalating action because as health workers we do this job to care for people in need. I think there is room to escalate action quite a bit, I don’t apologise for disrupting elective care, as I hope patients will understand the plight of particularly our low paid members.
“But also, the main political parties have been and are planning on attacking our national health service. We need an alternative that will stand up to those big companies avoiding tax and invest that wealth in providing a decent health service for everyone, that’s why I stood for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in the May elections this year.”