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From The Socialist newspaper, 17 July 2019

Health visitors strike for the first time ever

Stop the two-tier service, pay up now!

Health visitors on strike in Lincolnshire, 15.7.19, photo by Jon Dale

Health visitors on strike in Lincolnshire, 15.7.19, photo by Jon Dale   (Click to enlarge)

Jon Dale, secretary, Unite union EM/NG32 Nottinghamshire Health branch (personal capacity)

Health visitors in Lincolnshire believe theirs is the first health visitors' strike anywhere in the country. The 58 specialist nurses, members of Unite the Union, voted for action by an 84% majority.

The council is undermining the professional role of a health visitor, introducing a two-tier service. In- stead of preventing childhood and family problems, health visitors will be box ticking or running from crisis to crisis.

'Level 1' health visitors no longer have specialist responsibilities, so will be de-skilled. This will put young children and families at risk and risk the smaller number of 'Level 2' health visitors burning out with a heavy caseload.

In 2017, health visitors were transferred from the NHS to the Tory-controlled county council.

Although NHS and local authority workers have had (small) pay rises since, the council refused to raise health visitors' pay. They have each lost over 2,000 a year.

Health visitors on strike in Lincolnshire, 15.7.19, photo by Jon Dale

Health visitors on strike in Lincolnshire, 15.7.19, photo by Jon Dale   (Click to enlarge)

The council claims it can't pay more, but found 292,000 to pay its former chief executive for six months' work! Its central government grant has been slashed from 211 million to 20 million over the past eight years.

The council should refuse to pass on these cuts, or stand aside for campaigners who will.

Two 24-hour and two 48-hour strikes were initially announced, starting on 15 July. A further six days were agreed at a mass meeting after the first picket.

Similar issues are brewing up across the country. Nationally, the number of health visitors has fallen 25% since 2015.

Newborn babies, young families and health visitors are paying the price. This Lincolnshire strike may be the first but is unlikely to be the last.

National strike action is needed, uniting all public service workers against all cuts.

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