Blog 50: 1% insult

Blog 50 is here, counting down the hours to our covid release, like grizzled prisoners chalking off the days on the wall of a cartoon prison cell.

Quite a lot is going on at the moment. From the government deciding your efforts this year are worth a 1% pay “cut”, to them also outlawing the inevitable protest which comes from that. Due to this we know the government are as popular with NHS workers as a jumbo sized Scarborough seagull hovering around your lunch time Fish & Chips , and rightly so .

In brief, we cannot allow this 1% pay insult to stand. We need to take immediate action, and leave the government in no doubt to our feelings and the potential consequences of this hideous offer.

As a Branch we know we cannot face our members, who have done so much in the last year, and tell them this is something we are not going to fight. We have urged our full time officials to work with our sister unions to take a coordinated approach in this battle. All our industrial options should be available to fight this provocative government.

The obvious reaction, if there is no movement from the Tories, is for our members to shake our email inbox and call for us to take strike action. Something I personally agree with. Unfortunately it’s not as easy as that. This calculating government have introduced very complicated strike rules which make taking action a administrative nightmare. That’s not to say we cannot do it , but it’s not as easy as just calling for it. I wish it was.

If you do think we need to take strong action to fight back then the best thing you can do is to make sure your contact details are up to date . Email unison.sjuh@nhs.net or call 08000 857 857 to ensure your address / phone number / job title etc are current. Honestly as this stage that is the most useful thing you can do. Not very glamorous, its unlikely to turn up in the film of the great NHS revolution, but absolutely essential.

Also in this last few weeks , our activists have been featured on Leeds Live , Heart Radio, and Socialist Telly. We are trying to get the word out, and counteract the inevitable backlash from the capitalist press. “Why do the NHS need a pay rise , surely their work is a vocation”, “at least they have a job”  etc. The pay rise we are asking for is on the back of years of pay cuts… see the table below. We are down between 5 and 20% on our pay since the Torys came to power. We are not so much asking for a rise but a reimbursement. In reaction to NHS work being a vocation. For many this may be true. We love our work, we enjoy caring for our patients, and we our proud of what we’ve achieved especially under the extreme pressures recently. However we are not volunteers. We are highly trained staff who demand we get paid as such. Yes patient focused, but that doesn’t mean we are martyrs!!! Lastly , a point we should always put out there, If pay remains as poor as it is now, then how can we get new staff to fill the tens of thousands of vacancies? To save the NHS for the future we need a significant pay rise now.

NHS Pay rates 2010 - 2020

In Manchester , days after the 1% pay cut was announced a UNISON activist was fined for holding a socially distanced , outdoor , covid complaint protest , the eye watering amount of ten thousand pounds !!

If you compare :-

There has been over 134,000 Health and Safety Executive (HSE) complaints of unsafe Covid working practices and Public Health England alone have recorded 3,500+ workplace Covid outbreaks.

Not a single HSE Covid related Prohibition Notice has been issued on a business  !!

However – Over 70 thousand individuals have been fined for breaching lockdown rules under the Covid Act.

If you are managing a workplace , the establishment will protect you , even if you are putting staff at risk. If you are an individual you are met with an iron fist.

We are living in scary times dudes. The right to protest is a human right ( it obviously needs to be done cautiously,  and safely at the moment ) but it is a fundamental human right. It is UNISON official policy not to hold gatherings , and clearly this authoritarian government also wants to stomp down on gatherings. This is reasonable on one hand if it is genuinely to protect the public , on the other hand it may have more of a sinister and covert reason. Something we certainly need to be aware of.

The nice , and satisfying outcome to the fine of Karen Reissman , the UNISON activist involved, was the penalty was paid (and more collected) by solidarity payments of trade union activists and other supporters of civil liberties. There are some good people out there.

Article 11: Freedom of assembly and association

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of interests.

…. speak soon xxx