The Socialist 4 July 2012
Kick 'em out!
It's our NHS - let's fight for it!
Resist attempts to rip up health workers' rights
Leaked proposals describe how a consortium of 16 NHS organisations in the South West intends to break away from national collective bargaining in order to launch an unprecedented attack on health workers' pay and conditions.
It seems that most NHS health organisations, and therefore all major acute hospitals, in the South West have paid £10,000 to join the consortium. Other health organisations, such as social enterprises, are looking to establish a close relationship.
It is clearly a calculated attack on what the government and NHS bosses perceive to be a region where the Unison union is relatively weak.
The document outlines measures to reduce the wage bill from 68% of overall costs to 60%. These include pay cuts of up to 15%, an increased working week, a holiday entitlement reduction for those who receive extra through long service, reduced payment for weekend working and changes to sickness pay. These proposals, if implemented, would be the biggest ever onslaught on the living standards of health workers, with almost every benefit we've ever won abolished.
Not surprisingly, gone is the language of social partnership and working with the staff. Instead, we have a declaration of war on health workers and trade unions. They are, however, expecting resistance from the workforce, but have a strategy to force through their plans.
Ultimately, if all else fails, they intend to terminate the contracts of NHS staff and then re-engage them on new terms and conditions. We could see thousands of nurses and other health staff in the South West threatened with losing their jobs.
The document does not acknowledge the hard work and professionalism of NHS staff. Instead, we are seen as a financial burden that needs reducing. Of course, there is no mention of the costs incurred through numerous boards of directors, senior managers, or PFI.
If these proposals are implemented in the South West, then health workers nationally, followed by all public sector workers, will face similar treatment.
Every reform, benefit, and right enjoyed by health workers has been won through the struggles of trade unions over many years. To defend these gains, Unison in the South West, but also nationally, needs to launch a massive campaign, starting with a major regional demonstration of health workers in the South West as a step towards regional strike action.
In this issue
Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party LGBT
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party appeal
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party review