UNISON prepares ‘robust response’ to government’s attempts to divide the health team

UNISON has reaffirmed its commitment to the One Team campaign for the health service, in the face of the government’s “divisive” actions during the NHS pay dispute, the national executive council (NEC) heard today.

Health members in England are currently voting on the government’s latest pay offer. The ballot closes at 3pm on Thursday 13 April. By the time delegates meet for the national health conference next week, results will be through and next steps will be debated.

In her NEC report, general secretary Christina McAnea said that, ahead of conference, the health service group executive had discussed the Westminster government’s commitment to the Royal College of Nurses to consider a separate pay spine in England ‘for nursing staff exclusively’.

“That’s obviously of huge concern to us,” she said. “The committee reaffirmed our union’s One Team values and agreed that any move to break up the Agenda for Change pay system in this way would present significant risks – including around equal pay – and cause unnecessary local tensions.

“The committee agreed to oversee development of a robust UNISON response, focusing on the measures actually needed to support proper pay and career progression for nursing staff, and highlighting the dangers of dismantling the harmonised pay spine.”

In associated work, Ms McAnea reported that the service group’s flagship healthcare assistant re-banding programme, ‘Pay Fair for Patient Care’, is going “from strength to strength,” with projects now active in every region.

And she noted the union’s launch of its National Care Service campaign, just one day after the government confirmed it was to halve its investment in the social care workforce. “The campaign couldn’t be more vital,” she said.

The NEC received updates on other pay campaigns across the union, including: the upcoming industrial action ballot for local government members in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and consultation over a new offer in Scotland; a strike ballot in higher education; and upcoming strike action at the Environment Agency and CQC.

Council members took the opportunity to send messages of support to health members in Northern Ireland, whose strike actions recently brought the government to the negotiating table, and to the junior doctors of the British Medical Association (BMA), who are currently on strike.

Away from pay disputes, Ms McAnea told the council that UNISON has put the wheels in motion for a potential judicial review into the Home Office’s recent decision to renege on three commitments it made following the Windrush Review.

Home secretary Suella Braverman has confirmed that plans to strengthen the powers of the immigration watchdog, set up a new national migrants’ advocate, and run reconciliation events with Windrush families would all be scrapped.

Ms McAnea said that any action the union takes will depend on the responses it receives from the government to its objections, and further legal advice,

“We’re still investigating and trying to get more information. It seems appropriate given our long history of supporting people involved in Windrush, and [former general secretary] Dave Prentis’s personal involvement in this, that we as a union pursue this as far as we can.”

It was fitting that the NEC also approved the president and vice presidents’ award of UNISON honorary membership to Doreen and Neville Lawrence, the parents of Stephen Lawrence.

As president Andrea Egan told her colleagues, the honour reflected the Lawrences’ work for social justice and fight against discrimination in the UK, including their work on these issues with UNISON itself, and also marked the fact that 2023 is UNISON’s Year of Black Workers.

In other business, the NEC agreed to extend the union’s financial appeal – from regional to national – for the staff at the Orchard Day Nursery in Merseyside, who lost their jobs when the owners controversially closed the centre in March.

The article UNISON prepares ‘robust response’ to government’s attempts to divide the health team first appeared on the UNISON National site.

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