Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/737/15409
Health workers must fight attacks on jobs and pay
Call a 24-hour general strike to defend the NHS from the government's cuts and privatisation monster
Hardly a day passes without reports of ward closures, casualty departments shutting, and more job losses in the National Health Service. The government's savage budget cuts and exorbitant privatisation schemes are part of an insidious drive to abolish the NHS as a publicly owned and run health service. The following article shows the devastating impact of what the NHS break-up will mean for health workers and patients.
Roger Davey, Chair, Wiltshire and Avon Health Branch, Unison (personal capacity)
The decision by the majority of NHS Trusts in the South West to break away from national agreements on pay and conditions has huge consequences, not just for health workers, but for the whole of the public sector and for the entire population's health needs.
This new 'consortium' is about to put forward proposals that, if implemented, would result in health workers suffering a staggering 15% cut in their pay and conditions.
This should act as a warning to the trade union movement everywhere that the bosses' offensive against the working class is likely to become even more brutal and savage over the next period.
Earlier this year a leaked document revealed that 20 NHS organisations in the South West have paid £10,000 to join what is, in effect, a pay cartel. These trusts employ over 60,000 workers (90% of medical staff in the region), and include almost all of the major acute hospitals in the South West. The document itself contains a list of proposals which would destroy the terms and conditions of health workers.
The consortium plans to: increase the working week; cut basic pay; reduce annual leave entitlement; cut unsocial hours payments; introduce performance-related increments; cut sickness pay and reduce redundancy pay.
However, the threat to national collective bargaining is not the only issue facing health workers. Funding in the NHS has fallen from a 6% increase per year under Labour (much of it going to the private sector) to just 0.4%.
Alongside the unaffordable cost of Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes and privatisation, this represents the biggest financial cutback in the history of the NHS. Already this is leading to the closure of wards, casualty departments, and to the 'rationalisation' - ie cuts and rationing - of NHS care.
Furthermore, with the advent of the Health and Social Care Act, it means that from next April NHS finances will be in the hands of GP consortiums, or, in reality, private companies, with the emphasis on making profit instead of patient care. This will be in addition to the further development of the commercial health market with the growing domination of ruthless private healthcare companies.
The defence of the NHS, like the protection of workers' living standards, can only be achieved by mobilising the strength and power of the trade union movement.
Whether you are a cleaner in the South West or a teaching assistant in the North East you will experience the same attacks, the same bosses, and feel the same anger.
South West Socialist Party members who work in the NHS are demanding the unions call a regional demo and run an indicative ballot for strikes, so action can be organised if the employees don't back down.
A 24-hour general strike by the trade unions can be the first step in harnessing this anger, and represent the beginning of the end for austerity and the coalition government.
Stop Tory privatisation plans
- 398 contracts were recently signed in eight NHS areas, adding up to £262 million with bids from 37 private companies.
- In 2013 the Coalition plans to open up £750 million of NHS services to private vultures.
- Buckinghamshire aims to "double its private income over the next year".
- 333 donations from private healthcare sources, totalling £8.3 million, were gifted to the Tories since 2001.
In The Socialist 10 October 2012:
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