In the aftermath of the pandemic, thousands of healthcare workers across the county are currently in talks regarding possible strike action over inadequate pay. Workers in the healthcare sector – including, but not limited to, nurses, midwives, paramedics, administration staff and cleaners – were subject to the physical and mental ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dissatisfaction among healthcare staff continues to grow, as many feel that the pay rises offered by the government do not protect workers from the effects of rising inflation. Madelaine Dinnage reports on the consequences of this, specifically the ballot for proposed strike action.
UNISON, one of the UK’s largest trade unions dedicated to the representation of public service workers, reports that they are currently consulting NHS workers across Nottinghamshire over strike action. This comes after years of ‘below inflation increases’, which have resulted in dependence upon food banks for large numbers of union members. As well as leaving countless job vacancies unfilled, says UNISON Nottingham University Hospitals acting branch secretary Shantalee Mullings.
An increase in pay would serve to tackle staff shortages
The physical and mental toil of the pandemic applied unprecedented amounts of pressure upon an already struggling National Health Service, the full-force of which was felt most profoundly by those on the front line. This has led to a mass exodus of NHS staff, with many of those remaining suffering from burnout and in extreme cases PTSD. An increase in pay would serve to tackle staff shortages, as well as alleviating some of the financial stress associated with ever-rising inflation, says UNISON.
In response to this, the government urges NHS staff to refrain from striking, as it would cause mass disruption to scheduled appointments. A Government spokesperson for the department of Health and Social Care stated, “We are giving over one million NHS workers a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year, as recommended by the independent NHS Pay Review Body, on top of 3% last year when pay was frozen in the wider public sector.”
“We have well-oiled contingencies in place”
Many fear what will happen if NHS workers go on strike, and where this would leave those in need of operations, appointments, and emergency care. Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden has said that the Government are putting plans into place for if the strikes do go ahead. “We have well-oiled contingencies in place and the Department of Health is across how we would deal with a scenario like this should it arise”.
“We will make sure we prioritise the most essential services – emergency services and so on. But of course there would be an impact as a result of a strike like that.”
“Many feel like the end of the road has been reached”
Regarding this, UNISON General Secretary Christina McAnea says: “Striking is the last thing dedicated health workers want to do”, though due to issues such as lack of staff and resources, “many feel like the end of the road has been reached.”
UNISON East Midlands regional organiser Dave Ratchford says, “Enough really is enough. If the Government are serious about saving the economy, they will pay NHS workers a decent wage. Instead of money getting squirrelled away in an offshore bank account, it will go to hardworking health workers who will go out and spend it on British goods and services which will kickstart the economy again.”
NHS staff are not the only ones feeling the pressure over the rising cost of living, as the past few months have seen multiple unions striking across public and private sectors, with the likes of Royal Mail and National Rail experiencing disruption as a result. Among others, the Royal College of Midwives is also considering strike action with regards to pay.
UNISON’s ballot remains ongoing and closes on 27 November.
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