By KD Tait
HUNDREDS OF thousands of health workers are being balloted for strike action after the government imposed a paltry five percent pay rise.
The Royal College of Nursing is balloting its 300,000 members for the first time in its 106 year history. The union is demanding an increase of five percent above inflation—currently 10 percent, but set to reach 13 percent by the end of the year.
The Royal College of Midwives and ambulance workers in the GMB union are also being balloted.
Unison members overwhelmingly rejected the pay offer in a consultative ballot. The union is balloting for action, but voting won’t start until the end of October. Meanwhile the RCN ballot ends on 2 November.
The failure of the unions to coordinate the timing and claims poses a risk to the momentum and unity of the fight for a real pay rise.
Joint strike committees should be elected in every NHS trust to unite the different unions and plan a common campaign to secure a big yes vote and beat the threshold of a 50 percent turnout mandated by the anti-union laws.
Healthcare unions have a policy to provide emergency and critical care cover during industrial action. A strike by key workers who kept the country going during the pandemic is a last resort—but it shows how desperate the situation has become.
All out action has won big increases for bus drivers, while discontinuous action by rail workers has failed to budge the government.
The best strategy is for the unions to announce coordinated, rapidly escalating action—two days the first week, three the following week up to all-out action if that’s what it takes to win.