UNISON TO BALLOT – over 3-year NHS wage-cutting deal

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DELEGATES at the UNISON Health Conference in Manchester yesterday voted to ballot over the government’s staged three-year pay deal.

The UNISON leaders had previously accepted the deal but the Health conference rejected this and delivered a blow to the Brown government.

A UNISON spokeswoman told News Line: ‘An emergency motion was passed calling on Service Group Executive to hold a ballot in May 2008 to ask members if they would like to accept or reject the government’s proposed pay deal.

‘If that leads to rejection then we will have to ballot for industrial action.’

Meanwhile, the GMB and the Royal College of Midwives reacted angrily yesterday to a letter they have received from NHS Chief Executive David Nicholson, threatening a further attack on their pay if they should reject the three year pay deal.

The letter stated: ‘If the proposed multi-year agreement is formally accepted by the unions following consultation with their members, the government will accept the recommendations of the independent NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) in full.

‘Nurses and other health care professionals will receive a 2.75% uplift in 2008/09.’

But, the letter continued: ‘If the proposed agreement is not accepted by union members, the government reserves the right to review its response to the NHS PRB recommendations and decide whether to accept, stage or abate them in the context of a one year settlement.’

A spokesman for the Royal College of Midwives told News Line: ‘There is clearly a threat in there.

‘It is a three-year deal and what we have major concerns about is year two and year three, where, given the current trends in inflation and the prospects for the economy, our members may be facing real terms cuts in their pay.’

A GMB spokeswoman told News Line: ‘GMB members will not be forced into making a decision by virtue of any threats.

‘Health service workers have sustained a below inflation agreement for the last two years.

‘They were sadly subjected to a staged award last year which many of our members are still angry about.

‘GMB will consult its membership and a decision on the proposed agreement will be advised to the department when that consultation is completed.’

She added: ‘We are very disappointed that the government feels it necessary to threaten health workers in this way.’

• A pioneering hospital treating people with complex mental health problems is to close next week.

NHS bosses in charge of the Henderson Hospital in south west London claimed the closure was temporary and a public consultation will still take place.

But staff believe it will be impossible to re-open the unit, which treats patients from across the UK.

The hospital, which initially looked after soldiers with shell shock, evolved into offering unique treatment to people from many parts of the UK who had self-destructive tendencies, eating disorders or suicidal feelings.

Although the Henderson earned an international reputation, its referrals began to dry up after changes to the funding system.

The closure plans were condemned by leading doctors when they were announced late last year by the South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust.

Since then, campaigners and local MPs have lobbied health ministers.