Leicester HCA strike. Photo: Steve Score
Leicester HCA strike. Photo: Steve Score

Heather Rawling, Leicester Socialist Party

“I have been a member of Unison for 41 years. This is the first time I have been on strike.”

“I joined the union a few weeks ago to support the strike.”

These were a couple of the comments of health care assistants (HCAs), mainly women, on the Unison picket line outside Leicester Royal Infirmary. It is a lively picket with plenty of chanting – and homemade cake to keep energy levels up!

On the third day of the strike, driving rain, hailstones, thunder and lightning could not dampen the spirits. One picket braved the spray from traffic, standing with her placard asking drivers to toot. She was rewarded with a cacophony of noise. A few weeks ago she wasn’t even a union member.

Across the University Hospitals of Leicester Trust, 94.6% of those balloted voted to strike.

The workers are striking for money that they are owed. Inadequate funding of the NHS alongside inadequate pay has led to difficulties recruiting trainee nurses, and many qualified nurses have been leaving the profession. For years, healthcare workers on Band 2 have been asked by management to carry out duties above their pay grade to make up for the lack of nurses, pickets told me. They should have been providing personal care like bathing and feeding patients, but most have been routinely undertaking clinical tasks like taking blood, performing electrocardiogram tests, and inserting cannulas!

HCAs have won an upgrade to Band 3, but management are stalling on paying all of the pay owed dating back to 2018, and have refused Unison’s offer of talks at ACAS. So the strikes are on, with more planned later in the month and into May.

The following Socialist Party members are standing in the 2024 Unison service group elections

  • Health: Steve Bell, Adrian O’Malley
  • Local Government: Mathew John, Angie Waller 
  • Community: Helen Couchman