TUC must call a general strike to defend national agreements and stop NHS privatisation

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THE NHS trade unions have split with Unison and the RCN voting at the national NHS Staff Council on Tuesday, to support changes that will mean the end of national agreements, while the GMB and Unite voted against.

The GMB stated afterwards that the ‘NHS is exposed to the market and Section 75 of the Health & Social Care Act, and cuts to terms and conditions of NHS Staff pose real threats to destroying the National Health Service.’

Section 75 of the Health and Social Welfare Act requires every service to be tendered out and advertised on a national NHS website, with a monitor in place to enforce this process of privatisation.

The GMB continued: ‘Unfortunately the staff council eventually voted 21 to 11 to accept the cuts. . .

‘This came after GMB members in the NHS had voted to reject these proposed changes in terms and conditions of employment in a consultation that concluded last Friday, 22nd February.’

The cuts opposed by GMB include: the introduction of locally determined performance related pay; cuts to sickness pay of up to 17%, with no unsociable hours payments when staff are off sick; depression of pay progression for some new starters; the removal of senior staff from national pay agreements.

Rehana Azam GMB National Officer for the NHS said ‘GMB and others who voted to reject the offer today remain of the view that the National NHS Council exists to support, retain, improve and maintain the national Agenda for Change agreement, and only through a national agreement can we retain a National Health Service.’

Martin Jackson, GMB NHS Chair and GMB NHS Committee member and NHS nurse said: ‘I will be working alongside our National NHS Committee Reps to support NHS Workplaces to challenge the implications of the implementation of these proposals. . . .’

Unite pledged to fight the imposition of changes to Agenda for Change and rejected the plans tabled by NHS Employers, warning that the introduction of locally negotiated performance pay would further hit low staff morale and patient care.

Unite head of health, Rachael Maskell said: ‘Our members have overwhelmingly rejected the changes to Agenda for Change. Not only are they divisive, but they open the way for “rogue employers” to drive down the pay and conditions of hard pressed health workers. . . Unite will fight local employers over these changes. We cannot stand back and let employers break statutory obligations for equal pay for work for equal value or press ahead with further cuts to our members’ terms and conditions.’

Unison chief, Dave Prentis, meanwhile called on Trusts across the country to work together with health unions to ensure the smooth implementation of changes to NHS staff pay, terms and conditions.’ Prentis was in the southwest yesterday where, prior to the agreement, 19 NHS Trusts had moved towards breaking away from agenda for change and introducing local terms and conditions.  The union is calling for those plans to be now shelved.

Prentis, said: ‘Now that we have a national agreement, I want to send a very clear message to all Trusts in England to stick to that agreement. . .

‘I am also calling on the south west consortium to think carefully about the benefits of the new agreement and avoid stirring up more industrial unrest.’

However the capitulation of Unison and the RCN will only have whetted the appetites of the employers who, as a result of their appeasement, will now step up their offensive to smash unions and privatise.   

Unite and the GMB must now get ready for national industrial action to defend their members from the employers’ attacks.

Members of Unison and the RCN should immediately take action to remove their leaders who have appeased the employers and the Tory-led coalition and sold out their members’ interests.

Section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act makes it perfectly clear that the privatisation of the NHS is on hand. The way to stop it is for Unite and the GMB to take the initiative and propose on the general council of the TUC that it calls an indefinite general strike to bring down the coalition and bring in a workers government.