Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 15 December 2021

Fighting union leadership needed to win NHS pay rise

NHS workers in Unison balloted for strike action in Mid Yorks NHS trust in 2013, winning concessions on pay. Photo: Iain Dalton

NHS workers in Unison balloted for strike action in Mid Yorks NHS trust in 2013, winning concessions on pay. Photo: Iain Dalton   (Click to enlarge)

Hospital worker in Unison

Staff in the NHS are waiting with baited breath for the results of the pay ballots for NHS staff in Unite and GMB unions, not yet out at the time of writing. Consultative ballots for strike action of health workers in the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Unison have delivered a majority for action. 89% of RCN members balloted voted for action short of a strike and Unison members voted 77% in favour of sustained industrial action.

Unfortunately, many workers and activists will be left disappointed by the low turnouts in what were the second consultative ballots, not reaching the Tories' undemocratic 50% turnout threshold. Unison's majority right-wing leadership in health has therefore refused to move to a formal ballot. However, there is still the possibility for strike action to demand a real NHS pay rise for the year 2021-22.

In addition to pressure on the union leaderships to keep up the campaign for this year, preparation must be made for 2022-23. When the 'independent' Pay Review Body reports what it thinks the pay offer for next year should be, due before 1 April, we need them to be under huge pressure to give a pay award that will help bring NHS pay back to levels equivalent to 2010, before austerity cut it by around 20% on average in eleven years.

But the only way to force the Pay Review Body or the government to listen to NHS staff is a campaign that includes strike action. The better organised this is, and the better co-ordinated between all the health unions, the more likely it is to succeed.

We need to learn the lessons of this year's pay campaign. Socialist Party members understand the difficulty of getting a turnout of 50% or more. The unions are more likely to meet this threshold, and to get a vote for action, if the union leaders give a clear lead in calling for strikes.

Secondly, when you have a huge majority voting to reject the pay offer and in favour of strike action, don't waste this opportunity by calling a second consultative ballot! A proper strike ballot, with a clear recommendation to vote for strike action, is much more likely to increase turnout.

Unfortunately, the right-wing majority on the Unison Health Service Group Executive (SGE) voted not to recommend outright rejection of the pay offer in the first consultative ballot, and not to call for members to vote yes to strike action. Then, despite health having the highest turnout of any Unison national pay ballot, they voted for a second consultative vote, against the proposal of the left to move straight to a proper strike ballot.

Left unity

The third lesson is therefore that the left in Unison needs to coordinate a campaign to ensure that a left majority can be elected to the Health Service Group Executive in elections early next year. Socialist Party members are calling for a joint left slate, to avoid the problems with the NEC elections earlier this year where left candidates were competing for the same seat, allowing the right-wing candidates to come through the middle. In the national male Health seat, for example, Socialist Party member Adrian O'Malley lost by a small margin.

The left now has a majority on the Unison National Executive Council, but faces a battle with the right and a whole layer of the full-time officers for lay-member control of the union. It is vital that this left majority is replicated in the health SGE, and used to show the fighting lead for action needed to win an NHS pay rise.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • We must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 15 December 2021:


Tory cuts and privatisation leave NHS in crisis

Unions must fight for Covid workplace safety

Councils to make workers pay, again

Assange faces extradition

Global inequality grows

What we think

Split Tories and spineless Starmer

End of the USSR

The legacy of the collapse of Stalinism

LGBTQ+ rights

Stonewall attacked by the establishment

Workplace news

Sharon Graham: 100 days as Unite general secretary - the challenges ahead

Fighting union leadership needed to win NHS pay rise

Support tube workers fighting back

South Wales Stagecoach victory

Yorkshire Stagecoach strikers confidence growing

Welcome support for striking Scunthorpe scaffolders

Guards fight for their grades on CrossCountry rail

London colleges victory

Coventry bin workers strike against Christmas holiday cut

Sheffield couriers escalate and spread action

Uni support staff strike ballot

Tesco strike action latest

Barts health workers to strike for a pay rise

Worksop Wincanton depot strike builds

International news

Sudan: End military rule and poverty


Nana's eviction: Community vs heartless Labour council

London solidarity protest: Rio Tinto out of Serbia

Save St Mary's Leisure Centre in Southampton

Why we joined the Socialist Party

Selling the Socialist - Waltham Cross and Boscombe

Posters, car boot and socialist guided tour - some ideas to raise funds

Readers' opinion

TV review: Vaccine Wars: The Truth About Pfizer

Quiz 2021

Christmas quiz of 2021


Home   |   The Socialist 15 December 2021   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangleTory vaccine sacking threat set to deepen NHS staffing crisis

triangleNo trust in Tories to keep us safe

triangleTories hand cash to private health profiteers

triangleLow pay, stress and Covid drive: NHS staff crisis

triangleNorth London NHS - "It's going to be us who saves it"


triangleRoyal Mail: Unofficial walkouts precede bigger battle to come on pay and workload

triangleSheffield Just Eat couriers speak about strike

triangleEmployers use vaccine excuse to attack sick pay

triangleNewham council rejects using 0.03% of reserves to fund arts


triangleBus driver Tracey Scholes reinstated at Go North West

triangleWorkplace news in brief

triangleSomers Forge workers continue pay strike


triangleNewham college strike solid against bully privatisers

triangleCoventry bin strike continues


triangleFree prescriptions? Maybe when you're older


triangleCarmarthenshire gritters take action as Plaid-led council reneges on agreement

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns



Scunthorpe scaffs resume indefinite strike action


South Yorkshire

S Yorks Stagecoach strike results in "huge pay win"



Sheffield Just Eat couriers speak about strike



Coventry bin strike continues



NUS walkout: Organise to fight for free education on 2 March



Oliver Campbell - 31 years fighting for justice



Somers Forge workers continue pay strike



Workplace news in brief



Bus driver Tracey Scholes reinstated at Go North West


Royal Mail

Royal Mail: Unofficial walkouts precede bigger battle to come on pay and workload



Newham college strike solid against bully privatisers



Pauline Wall memorial meeting


Socialist Students

Southampton uni ignores staff and students in exam farce



Demonstrating against the Tory anti-protest bill


Waltham Forest

Waltham Forest: Campaign unites families facing eviction

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 077 7221 5281

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 078 0983 9793



Alphabetical listing

January 2022