Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/832/19641
Back fresh strikes to save the NHS
None of the main parties will be satisfied until the NHS is a dried up, ruined husk. Cuts to pay and staff, and privatisation of facilities and services, mean soaring waiting times and plummeting care quality. And it's all in the name of more money for the bosses. An important weapon against this Tory-Liberal-Labour onslaught is effective industrial action by health workers, writes NHS nurse Helen Ridett.
Health unions, including Unison, are calling members out on a second round of industrial action. It begins with a four hour strike from 7-11am on 24 November.
NHS workers have endured a pay freeze since 2011. The value of our pay has fallen a whopping 10-14% as a result.
This huge pay cut has enabled the Tories to transfer £20 billion in "efficiency savings" out of the NHS to fund tax breaks for big business and military intervention in the Middle East. In the meantime, Unison reports that one in five NHS workers is now forced to take on a second job to make ends meet.
We are also faced with ongoing threats of redundancy, down-banding (being moved to a lower pay grade) and attacks on our terms and conditions. All are inherent in privatisation deals.
Speaking on Radio 4's Today Show during the last health service strike, health minister Jeremy Hunt said cutting NHS pay is justified, as NHS workers get incremental pay increases. However, a survey by Unison revealed that 60% of NHS workers had already reached the top of their pay band.
More cuts are to follow, as demands for a further £22 billion from the NHS hit the headlines. If cuts on this scale are allowed to go ahead, the very concept of a state provided healthcare system will be annihilated. Profit will come before patient care.
Protecting the NHS and the quality of our workforce is of paramount importance. It is vital the trade unions take the lead on this.
Unison has 1.3 million members - half a million of us work in the NHS. The health unions have huge potential power, especially if more members get actively involved in branches and organise properly.
Nurses and other health workers must strike on 24 November. We're not just fighting for our pay, but for our patients and the futures of our kids.
The picket lines and public support were huge on 13 October. This time, nurses and other health workers have a real chance to build for an even bigger turnout.
Unionised health staff must continue the urgent tasks of recruiting colleagues into the unions, and also collectively demand further industrial action in coordination with other trade unions.
In The Socialist 5 November 2014:
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