Blog 54: 3% pay offer and a crescendo of grumble

Blog 54 is here gnashing our teeth in frustration, at the 3% pay offer, like a particularly angry Crocodile when met with a bafflingly elusive, water hole gulping, Antelope. The minute I tiptoed, ballerina like, into my department after the 3% pay announcement I was met with a crescendo of grumble “when are we striking then?”, my email was also as full as Santa’s Christmas Eve sack with similar malcontent sentiment.

…. “Hurrah” I said. Every union rep wants an active, engaged membership …. But alas it’s not as easy as clicking your digits and just saying “strike” or “industrial action” I’ll try to explain why.
Firstly and most importantly you all have the right to take industrial action (even as a health care worker) and you can’t be legally forced to stay at, or go back to, work (unless a ballot isn’t organised correctly).

A ballot for industrial action must:

  • be supervised by a qualified independent person
  • be held before the union asks members to take or continue taking action
  • be open to all members the union wants to take action
  • be a postal ballot where members vote by marking a box on a voting paper and return it in a prepaid envelope
  • include information on what the ballot is about and where to post your vote

The union must tell everyone entitled to vote how many people voted, the number of yes votes, no votes or spoiled papers as soon as it can after the ballot.
It must also give the employer one week’s notice of the start of the ballot and tell them the result as soon as possible once it’s available.
Here is the tricky dastardly bit – Industrial ballots must attract a 50% turnout in order for their results to be legally valid. For instance, if 100 workers are eligible to vote, and only 49 turn out for the vote, workers cannot take industrial action even if all 49 vote in favour. With the size of the NHS workforce this is a huge logistical and administrative effort.
Workers whose role mostly concerns the delivery of “important” public services (so us guys) have to reach a 40% support threshold among all workers eligible to vote, as well as the 50% turnout threshold, in order to take action. This means that if 100 workers are eligible to vote, at least 50 have to vote, and at least 40 of them has to vote in favour. If 50 voted and 39 voted in support, it would still not be legal to take industrial action, even though the vast majority of voters elected for it.

It is worth noting politicians don’t have these strict and unwieldy rules when they are seeking election.

In the grand ol’ days we could have already have had that vote by a show of our dry alcohol gelled hands. We could have struck that blow to the government’s insults, and can be proud to have stuck up for ourselves. Unfortunately, those cunning Tory’s have put many hurdles in our way. That’s not to say we can’t hop over them like a young Peter Rabbit, but we do indeed need to skip to their unfair beat.

The press and the government will inevitably call us greedy, and pitch public servant against private worker, but this isn’t just about brass in our pockets (although we want that too). This pathetic offer will not reverse the staffing crisis we collectively suffer with. Skilled and or experienced workers will go elsewhere, and the NHS as a whole will consequently suffer. This pay deal was the governments last opportunity to relieve the mental fatigue we all feel by showing they care and to show they want to fix the nationwide gaps in the rotas. For the NHS to survive it needs its workers. We can’t lose you.  As every studious attendant on a life support class knows, before you look after others you need to first protect yourself. The 20% pay cut we have endured in these last ten years of Conservative rule has crushed us. The 3% status quo is not sustainable.

It also makes no sense to the economy. NHS workers are the biggest workforce in the country. If we get paid more, we spend it in our Towns and Cities. Local business boom on the back of our frivolous spend, spend, spend. No off-shore, tax dodging bank accounts for us.

I know, I know I’m nagging but ….

If you want the union to reject the 3% insult and take industrial action you MUST have your postal address up to date. Please, please ensure all your details are up current by sending name, DOB, job role, mobile number, email, & home address to unison.sjuh@nhs.net . I am super confident we would get a positive response to industrial action (if it comes to that) what we are worried about is we will fail on the admin side of things (remember all members must be contacted for it to be legal) ….. it’s such a boring thing to do, but even if you are slightly unsure if your details are in date just send in the details anyway. When, and how you will be consulted will come later, but be assured you will be contacted ( if you have your details correctly logged).

Finally, to those people who believed the Tory 2019 election promises, remember the slogan, Deeds not Words. They promised the world when electioneering, whilst in practice they’ve continued to destroy public services with their wilful neglect of the workforce. They don’t want the NHS to succeed. We know you do.

…. Speak Soon Xxx