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Nurse strike: Unison urges Thérèse Coffey to meet ahead of ballot

Unison, which represents nurses, midwives and paramedics, calls on the health secretary to enter into discussions to avert potential industrial action

Unison, which represents nurses, midwives and paramedics, calls on the health secretary to enter into discussions to avert potential industrial action

Unison has written to the health and social care secretary Thérèse Coffey urging her to meet for negotiations ahead of its strike ballot over pay later this month.

The union, which represents nurses, midwives, paramedics and other health workers, is calling on Ms Coffey to enter into discussions to potentially avert industrial action and winter disruption.

‘Taking industrial action is a very serious move’ – Unison in letter to health secretary

Unison has initiated a formal dispute after most NHS workers

Unison, which represents nurses, midwives and paramedics, calls on the health secretary to enter into discussions to avert potential industrial action

Unison urges Thérèse Coffey to meet ahead of ballot for its members on whether to take industrial action
Picture: iStock

Unison has written to the health and social care secretary Thérèse Coffey urging her to meet for negotiations ahead of its strike ballot over pay later this month.

The union, which represents nurses, midwives, paramedics and other health workers, is calling on Ms Coffey to enter into discussions to potentially avert industrial action and winter disruption.

‘Taking industrial action is a very serious move’ – Unison in letter to health secretary

Unison has initiated a formal dispute after most NHS workers were given just a £1,400 wage rise this year, falling way short of the inflation-busting increase health unions wanted. Their ballot is due to begin on 27 October and will run until 25 November.

‘Taking industrial action is a very serious move,’ the Unison letter to Ms Coffey said. ‘NHS staff are only too aware that reducing workforce capacity, even for a short time, ​will have an impact on the delivery of services

‘But having exhausted other routes to prompt the government into action, many are concluding that withdrawing their labour this winter is the best way to help patients.’

Letters were also sent to 200 NHS employers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland informing them that staff are to be balloted for strike action. A ballot in Scotland has already opened.

Industrial action not inevitable if the government offer ‘a decent wage and workforce plan’

The communications come as the RCN launched its postal ballot for strike action on 6 October, with 300,000 nurses across all four UK nations being asked if they are willing to strike for the first time in the union’s history.

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said that industrial action was not inevitable if the government offer a ‘decent wage and workforce plan’.

‘The backlog won't reduce, nor waiting times and delays lessen unless the NHS can keep hold of its experienced employees and attract new people,’ she added.

‘A proper pay rise would help the NHS start tackling the growing staffing shortages hampering its ability to cut waiting lists and reduce ambulance delays. The ball is sitting in the government's court.’

‘I will be voting to strike because our voices need to be heard’

Unison member and senior nurse Gamu said she would be voting to strike.

The single mum of three said she was already struggling to make ends meet before the cost-of-living crisis and is now dreading the coming months. She is already regularly using food banks.

‘Pay in the NHS has to improve. Staff deserve better for the work they do. I will be voting for strike action when the ballot comes because our voices need to be heard,’ she said.

‘Things must change for the sake of patients, the NHS and its staff. Our pay must reflect the work we do and the risks we take every day.’

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said that Ms Coffey had only just received the letter and would likely respond in due course.

They added: ‘We value the hard work of NHS nurses and are working hard to support them – including by giving over 1 million NHS workers, including nurses, a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year, as recommended by the independent NHS Pay Review Body.

‘Industrial action is a matter for unions, and we urge them to carefully consider the potential impacts on patients.’


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