Hunt throws down the gauntlet – the trade unions must pick it up!


THE Department of Health, headed by Health Secretary Hunt, has said that a proposed 1% increase in NHS staff pay was unaffordable, and is to be scrapped.

Hunt is to tell the NHS pay review body to withhold the rise which in itself would be a wage cut – with RPI inflation now running at 3.3%.

The DoH has urged the NHS pay review body to withhold the rise for 1.3m staff, with the arrogant Hunt declaring that the NHS could not afford both a 1% pay rise and the incremental increases, that are not made on an annual basis, that some NHS staff get linked to their career progression.

Around 58% of staff are eligible for career progression increases, while 42% are not.

The three years of public sector pay freezing under Labour and the Tories, are now to become four. This will make for at least a 12% pay cut, at the minimum, as inflation continues to bound ahead over the four year period – if Hunt and the coalition get their way.

At the Tory Party conference, PM Cameron unveiled the Tory programme, as one for a ‘land of hope and opportunity’.

This turned out to be the opportunity for the bankers and the bosses to continue to be propped up by billions in state aid from the taxpayer, while those on benefits were to see them savagely cut with the introduction of Universal Credit, and the Bedroom Tax, etc.

Cameron additionally revealed that workers who have been unemployed for two years (because of the crisis of capitalism) are to have all of their benefits stopped if they refuse compulsory work for no wages, or compulsory training. They are in fact to be required to report to their Job Centres every day for up to 35 hours a week!

He also revealed a special measure: that this regime is to be extended to 16-25 year-olds, as soon as they leave school, who would become no-wage forced labourers, if they were not in work or in training.

They are to be doubly punished for the crisis of the capitalist system.

Having dealt with the unemployed, Hunt is now dealing with employed public sector workers in the NHS. They are to come under a regime of a permanent wage freeze, on the grounds that 58% of NHS workers are involved in career progression payments.

This is just sheer cynicism, since in June Chancellor George Osborne said ministers were working to ‘remove automatic pay rises’ for teachers, health professionals, prison and police staff.

After the wage-freezing regime is established, public sector pay progression will be chopped.

In fact, Hunt plans to draft in no-wage workers into the NHS, to do the jobs, of porters, ancillary workers and nursing assistants.

He wants to use the unemployed against the employed to smash the public sector and smash the trade unions.

Commenting on the pay freeze-plan, Christina McAnea, head of health at Unison and joint chairwoman of the NHS Staff Council said: ‘What they have done is inflammatory. We are not going to negotiate while a gun is held to our head for a paltry 1% pay rise – our members will not react well to that.’

Dr Mark Porter, of the BMA said: ‘We’re going to find it increasingly hard to recruit, partly for the specialist skills and partly for the numbers of staff that we’d need to bring into the health service to implement the safe minimum staffing levels.’

The trade unions must do a lot more than just comment about how bad things are getting, they must pick up the gauntlet thrown down by Cameron, Osborne and Hunt and organise to dash the pay freeze plans.

The unions must unite the employed and the unemployed by taking strike action against the wage-cutting and benefit-cutting plans of the coalition government.

The TUC has continued to study the practicalities of calling a general strike for long enough.

It is entirely practicable and must be called at once and be an indefinite general strike to bring down the coalition and bring in a workers government and socialism.