Battle lines drawn on NHS picket

Health workers - members of the Royal College of Midwives, Unison and Unite - taking part in national strike action outside Blackpool Victoria Hospital
Health workers - members of the Royal College of Midwives, Unison and Unite - taking part in national strike action outside Blackpool Victoria Hospital
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Health workers are today starting a second phase of industrial action saying they want to “stun the Government” as they are forced to work in “demoralising” conditions.

Hundreds of NHS staff formed picket lines at hospitals and medical centres across the Fylde coast as part of national strike action yesterday.

From today union members will now work to rule for four days.

Members of seven unions staged walk outs between 7am and 11am in a row over a pay review, seeing midwives, nurses and estates staff protest after a planned one per cent pay rise was not “implemented fully” by ministers who said they couldn’t afford it.

Members of The Royal College of Midwives (RCM), Unison and Unite showed solidarity to the action outside Blackpool Victoria Hospital, with midwives taking action for the first time in RCM’s history. Anger was focused on the Government’s refusal to honour the rise, saying it is “hypocrisy” for MPs to accept a pay rise when NHS staff are being refused theirs.

The rise has only been handed to those staff without automatic progression-in-the-job rises, which union bosses at Blackpool said equated to around only half of their members receiving it.

measly

Unison convener Steve Holmes said: “The pay review body agreed a measly one per cent pay rise and as if that wasn’t bad enough, the Government refused to implement it in its entirety.

“For the Government to say ‘we’re all in this together’ is a joke.

“Strike action is the last resort. We want to stun the Government into showing some form of conscience.”

Union leaders said they were buoyed by the support of members of the public and patients.

Moira Broadhead, a member of the Royal College of Midwives, who has practised her profession for more than 20 years, said: “It’s a fundamental attack on the NHS pay structure.

“We just want to highlight the shortcomings and the threat the NHS is under.”

Fellow midwife and member Della Plant added: “It’s more than demoralising, it’s offensive. Blackpool’s maternity unit is busy and high risk.

“We never get our breaks and we regularly go home late. There’s no risk to patients but it’s a risk to our own health.”

Union bosses stressed no services were compromised during the strike action.

Ms Broadhead added: “We still ran a safe service, some people who wanted to strike couldn’t come out, in order to maintain that service.”

Members of Blackpool Against the Cuts joined those striking outside Whitegate Drive Medical Centre.

James Sawyer, from Blackpool Against the Cuts, said: “It comes to something when highly dedicated health workers feel so desperate that they go to the lengths of striking to get a living wage.

“I know how difficult it is for them to take this action but it is indicative of how people feel.”