No delays – turn anger over NHS wages into united strikes

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Furious health workers are pushing unions to step up fight after record votes to reject the 3% “pay hike” imposed by the Tories.

Members of the NHS ‘largest union, Unison, voted 80% to say’ no ‘to the wage insult. In results released this week, only one in five said they would take the offer.

Results from an RCN poll in England and Wales announced last week showed more than 90 percent of nurses who voted rejected the deal.

And 93 percent of GMB union members rejected the award.

After 18 months of hell during the pandemic, no wonder health workers are furious at the low wages and unbearable workloads.

Everyone knows vacancies are at an all time high and poverty wages are keeping people from working in the NHS.

Now, with rapidly rising inflation, skyrocketing fuel bills and an ongoing national insurance hike, the Conservatives’ compensation plan looks even worse.

The main task of unions is to link the wage struggle with patient safety and overwork – and thus to mobilize anger to win a strike vote.

Danger

There is a danger that union leaders will ignore the huge votes to reject 3 percent, and instead dwell on the moderate turnout in the polls.

Just over a quarter of RCN members voted in their ballots, with the vote in Unison being slightly higher.

Matt Tacey, a psychiatric nurse and RCN representative in Sheffield, believes unions must act quickly to take advantage of workers’ anger.

“Talking to ministers and holding another consultative ballot to see if we want to act is just a delay,” he told Socialist Worker. “Getting a vote of over 90% to reject the 3% salary offer should be enough to conduct a real strike vote.”

Matt says the RCN should use the 25 percent turnout it got as a “springboard” to win a ballot for industrial action.

“If everyone who voted convinces just one other RCN member to do the same, we have this,” he said. “We have to come face to face with people in the services and have a dialogue with them. Everyone is mad at the understaffing, so we should talk about how a wage fight could change that.

“The MRC has a huge

£ 35million in his strike fund. We have to use it, ”he said.

But RCN leaders say that after the election results “the ball is now with the government”.

That means waiting weeks for some sort of response from Sajid Javid’s health ministry – an answer everyone knows is ‘No’.

Matt is right, the time to talk is over. Now health workers must strike, both for their pay and to protect the NHS.


NHS unions could vote for strikes after paying insult
NHS unions could vote for strikes after paying insult

Pressure to act

There are rumors that Unison will announce a new consultative poll ahead of any move to propose a strike vote.

The strategy is to be discussed at the union’s e-health conference this week.

Prolonged consultation risks allaying the anger of the moment, rather than building strength over time, as many full-time managers argue.

Some members of the union leadership are also opposing the strikes, saying they would be seen as an attack on the NHS in times of crisis. But unless health workers strike quickly, conservatives will ignore morale

understaffing and dire conditions in the health services will worsen.

The GMB union has said it will “move to a strike ballot”, but is also calling for talks with ministers.

Health workers in all unions must take any new consultative ballots seriously.

The more they are able to improve turnout and get a vote for action, the more pressure union leaders will be under and the more likely strikes will be.


Patients die while awaiting treatment

Anger is mounting in Scotland after a man is found dead after waiting more than 40 hours for an ambulance.

Reports indicate that many vulnerable patients wait well over ten hours for emergency care as the number of emergency calls increases.

The service is now so overwhelmed that soldiers have been drafted into emergency vehicles.

Politicians are quick to blame Covid-19 numbers for the backlog.

In fact, decades of cuts to health and social services have brought Scotland to this point.

Service

The long-term understaffing in the ambulance service was compounded by staff illness and the need to

self-isolate.

But there is also a huge problem in getting patients out of the hospital and getting them to benefit from social services, because of the crisis there.

This leads to a shortage of hospital beds and then to a backlog of ambulances trying to drop patients off at the hospital.

Teams often wait hours to hand over their patients, and it just stops

them participating in other urgent appeals.


Private hospitals that make a lot of money

Private hospitals rake in huge profits as the NHS suffers.

As health services wait lists hit 5.6 million this summer, many people with pain and worry have been forced to cough up hundreds of pounds to see a specialist.

Most of them are people without private health insurance and use their savings to pay their medical bills.

Others, who lost their jobs during the pandemic, must take out loans in order to have life-saving procedures.

Some dentists now say the wait for tooth extraction can be up to three years.


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