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Posted on 1 February 2013 at 10:42 GMT

"Overt staff resistance" at Mid Yorkshire NHS trust

Iain Dalton

"I can't believe their arrogance", said one striker as we walked out en masse from the NHS trust board meeting.

The meeting had just heard a management report over the current dispute where 500 admin and clerical workers are on the fourth of five days of strike action against pay cuts.

The trust board had already refused to admit a delegation of strikers to present their view at the meeting, or send a representative to hear the views of strikers directly, preferring to go through the HR director Graham Briggs.

So instead workers went en masse to the trust board meeting, which had to be moved into a lecture theatre to accommodate all the strikers present and their supporters.

Strikers were treated to what sounded like a whole new language invented to say different things to what you mean.

Briggs reported the response to the downbanding proposals had been 'overt staff resistance supported by the trade unions', ie they had rejected it and balloted for industrial action to fight it.

He then explained that in negotiations the trust had offered two preconditions for taking forward any alternative to the downbanding proposals: that the union call off any further strikes and that they agreed to work towards saving 500,000 worth of savings from the admin and clerical budget, excluding the voluntary redundancies the trust had already secured.

Yet these same redundancies have caused havoc, with medical secretaries having to be brought back in to deal with the workload via NHS Professionals Agency, albeit on lower pay - which gives the real game away.

As Dave Byrom, Mid Yorks Unison branch chair, commented: "With the same condescending attitude they displayed throughout the consultation period and during recent negotiations, it seems clear their remit is to force through pay cuts for all groups of staff and create a precedent for the rest of the NHS".

No cuts for the bosses

During the meeting when Briggs announced that the trust is expected to make 4-5% cuts each year for the next few years he was greeted with heckles like: 'You're gonna cut our pay again then', 'Cut your own pay' and 'Sack Ernst and Young'.

The latter were paid 425,000 in December alone, almost as much as the trust say they are trying to save.

But what particularly set the strikers' anger boiling was that not one of the non-executive directors, who get paid around 1,000 just for attending each board meeting, raised any questions whatsoever of management's report.

It is rumoured that one of the board members is a labour councillor, which would hardly be surprising given that the local council is carrying out the Con-Dem cuts. After the meeting moved on, the strikers walked out en masse in disgust.

So far 162 strikers have received dismissal and re-engagement notices, which rather than intimidating the strikers is just spurring them on. The strikers burnt mock copies of these letters outside the trust board meeting.

Wide support

The support from other staff and the public has been tremendous. At the Pontefract General Infirmary picket line on Wednesday almost every vehicle that passed the picket line tooted its horn in support of the strikers, with several patients passing the picket line venting their frustration not just at the attacks on the health services locally, but the wider austerity measures too.

At Pinderfields hospital one elderly patient, Jack, has been at most of the picket lines and at the rally determined to give whatever support he can to help the strike win.

A CWU youth rep stopped at the picket line apologising for going into the hospital whilst some workers were striking.

After the board meeting today canteen staff at the hospital invited workers to sit inside due to the very cold weather to have a hot sandwich each.

On Friday, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis is visiting the picket lines, and strikers will be urging him to authorise a branch-wide ballot so they can extend the strike to defeat this vicious management.

See also:
NHS workers resist cuts

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