Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/766/16721
NHS staff under the cuts cosh
An NHS worker and Unite rep
The NHS is under the cosh, having been instructed by the government to make savings of £20 billion. This has driven a relentless assault upon the terms and conditions of thousands of employees.
Staff have been subjected to years of pay freezes, pay caps and draconian pension reforms. However, the public sector austerity programme has been surpassed in the NHS by an abhorrent national agreement, regrettably supported by trade unions such as Unison and the RCN.
This agreement allows the withdrawal of key terms and conditions of employment and the introduction of, among other things, performance -related pay.
These outrageous changes are opposed by Unite and some smaller unions. Unite believes this will be the thin end of the wedge, that this agreement will open the door to further erosions of national terms and conditions, in turn signalling a green light for Trusts to go it alone, negotiating terms, conditions and salaries at a local level.
This strategy will inevitably lead to further cuts, making services more attractive to 'Any Qualified Providers', thereby resulting in the privatisation of key public services.
The NHS increasingly relies upon the goodwill of many thousands of hardworking, dedicated, caring professionals.
Many routinely work through their break periods and often beyond the end of their shift.
This work, often unpaid, is undertaken through necessity and is often accompanied by a degree of emotional blackmail from highly stressed managers and doctors.
Having described the situation in the NHS, I pose the question, do desk bound executives really believe that cutting staffing costs to the bone will achieve anything other than causing further damage to staff morale which in turn will result in a deterioration of care and outcomes?
Southern Health workers fight back
Support and care workers employed by the Southern Health Trust are fighting to defend their terms and conditions.
The Trust, which supplies care and support services across southern England, has decided to cut pay by 15% and reduce holidays by eight days.
This is a breakaway from the Agenda for Change national agreement and it affects about 800 workers.
A Southern Heath worker told the Socialist: "We don't accept any move away from Agenda for Change. We must make a stand now.
"We're being told we have to sign the new contracts otherwise we'll lose our rights anyway.
"Health bosses must be shown that we fill fight to defend our terms and conditions. If we don't then any Tom, Dick or Harry can come along and attack our terms and conditions and maybe put us on the minimum wage.
"We've already had members ringing up, crying on the phone, saying: 'that's my house gone'.
"A consultative survey by Unison has shown 90% of members in favour of industrial action and about 86% in favour of strike action.
"We've had a big public campaign to get people to send protest postcards to the chair of the board. 8,000 have been given out and thousands have been returned. Also we're contacting local politicians to put pressure on them.
"We have the backing of Oxfordshire trades council and we were on the front of the May Day march in Oxford this year.
"We have the backing of many different union branches across the country including lots of Unison branches.
"We've built the union in Southern Health and we have a good stewards network. We now have to make sure that Unison start the strike ballot as soon as possible. We'll be lobbying the trust board on 29 May.
"We always put our service users first and by doing this we are putting them first. We don't want a demoralised workforce - that would be bad for the service users and the staff."
Lobby of the Trust board: Wednesday 29 May, 9am. Main Hall, Lyndhurst Community Centre, Lyndhurst SO43 7NY
In The Socialist 22 May 2013:
Fight the bedroom tax
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Socialist Party feature
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