Reopen the battle on NHS pay

Adrian O’Malley is the chair of Unison’s Wakefield and Pontefract Hospitals branch and newly elected to Unison’s health service group executive (SGE) for Yorkshire and Humberside. He spoke to The Socialist, in a personal capacity, about the result of the recent Unison ballot accepting a three-year pay deal.

“I was disappointed in the ballot result because we’d got a good campaign going in our branch. Members were saying they’d all voted against it so we were a bit surprised and disappointed to hear it was 2:1 to accept nationally.

Most of them are absolutely gutted that we’ve got a three-year pay deal which is going to end up in pay cuts for four full years, following last year. So they feel let down by the union.

But I think that a lot of branches didn’t make a recommendation. Also, there’s a lot of not very active branches in Unison health where members were not getting any recommendation and just received the biased stuff from head office.

In our branch we had branch committee meetings to recommend a rejection. We also had smaller meetings of individual members and we sent a letter to each member’s home prior to the ballot going out. So all 2,000 members got a recommendation from the branch – not just to reject but for strike action to fight for a better deal.

Unison haven’t even announced the turnout, we think that’s because it was low.

I think also that members were looking at the union and thinking: ‘They haven’t even made a recommendation so how serious are these people? They’re giving no leadership whatsoever. They don’t even say reject then they say if you do reject the deal, you’ll have to be ready for long periods of strike action.’

What they should have been saying is – this deal is terrible, let’s go for it, let’s have a fight on pay.

I’ve just been elected to the SGE and on my election notice I said I support strike action to get more pay.

There is a clause in the deal which says that if inflation goes up we can reopen negotiations. So we’ll be calling for it to be reopened so we don’t have to wait years before we get another pay rise.

There’s actually a motion from one region to the SGE already calling for the deal to be reopened and that will be discussed in July.

I’ll be supporting that with fellow Socialist Party member Len Hockey who has also just got elected from the London region.

We really feel that the union leaders have done a deal with New Labour to avoid the embarrassment of strike action and in doing that they have betrayed the membership with pay cuts for a few years. So they must be brought to task.”


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