Adrian O’Malley, Unison branch secretary, Mid Yorkshire Health, personal capacity
Three-day strike of Mid Yorkshire Unison NHS staff against pay cuts and mass downgrading, photo Iain Dalton

Three-day strike of Mid Yorkshire Unison NHS staff against pay cuts and mass downgrading, photo Iain Dalton   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

The dispute between admin and clerical staff and the Mid Yorkshire Health Trust has ended with the Unison and Unite members accepting an improved pay protection deal.

This brings to an end a bitter dispute which resulted in over 400 workers taking nine days of strike action against compulsory redundancies and downbandings, ie pay cuts, in November and January.

The Unison branch/strike committee reluctantly decided to enter into negations with the Trust after the branch wide ballot resulted in a 76% yes vote for more strike action but in a turnout of just under 20%.

The stewards considered long and hard whether to go ahead with the strike action but with the turnout likely to be patchy in some wards and departments, they decided to negotiate the best deal possible.

The solidarity shown by the admin staff clearly had a big impact. This year’s workforce reviews involve far fewer departments and staff. This influenced the turnout in the vote as most members were not facing pay cuts or job losses. Our members have seen that striking delivers results.

As well as downbanding staff the Trust imposed one year pay protection on all Trust staff, reduced from three years. Now the Trust has been forced through strike action to pay the admin staff the three years they were entitled to under the old policy.

More importantly they have to agree new job descriptions for all the downbanded staff within six months, which opens the door for us to fight to get our members back on their original bands.

Any staff who face downbandings this financial year will get two years’ protection and in future years 18 months. Although by no means an overwhelming victory this is an improvement for all staff within the Trust. Our action has also ensured there were no compulsory redundancies. The deal has been overwhelmingly accepted at meetings attended by over 100 of the strikers.

Our Unison branch has been strengthened by the dispute with over 250 joining the union and ten becoming new stewards.

With the Trust facing a continual financial crisis new disputes are inevitable. We are far stronger now than a year ago when the pay cuts were first proposed.

The Trust has embarked on an anti-union agenda by proposing to remove my full-time union post and the staff side secretary post held by Maria Thompson of Unite. Both unions have vowed to defend our posts and if necessary ballot for further industrial action.

If the Trust do not back down and stop the attacks on our trade union rights, strike action could well be back on the cards at Mid Yorkshire Trust.

Adrian will be a speaker at the NSSN national conference on 29 June. For details see Build for mass anti-cuts action.