NHS staff set to strike in the new year

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HOSPITAL staff in South Tyneside are set to walkout and work to rule in the new year over an ongoing pay dispute.

Unison members working at South Tyneside District Hospital in South Shields, will strike for 12 hours between 9am and 9pm on Thursday, January 29.

They will then work to rule between Friday, January 30 and Tuesday, February which means they will be working their contracted hours and will take their breaks and not do unpaid overtime. This will be followed by a 24-hour strike on Wednesday, February 24.

Unison members along with workers from 11 other trade unions have already taken two four-hour stoppages in October and November.

This third round of action is in protest at the Government’s decision to reject the one per cent pay rise for NHS staff as recommended by the independent Pay Review Body in 2014 and the fact most will be denied a pay increase in 2015/16.

Christina McAnea, Unison’s head of health, said: “We warned months ago that this dispute is here to stay unless the Government and NHS employers are prepared to negotiate with us.

“Today is likely to be the busiest day in the NHS with ambulance and A&E staff put under huge pressure to deal with the fallout from the many Christmas parties taking place across the country. “We have decided not to take strike action over the Christmas period as services are already at breaking point at this time. Our members are demonstrating their concern for patient safety. I only wish the employers and Government would do the same.

“Instead they are being completely irresponsible by refusing to have meaningful negotiations on how we resolve this dispute. And they are putting patients lives at risk.

“Our members’ pay has been frozen or held down for the past five years and there is no end in sight. On average, they have lost around 10 per cent in the value of their pay over the life of this parliament.

“We now have no option but to escalate and plan for longer strikes. The anger among health workers has reached levels where they are now ready to walk out for 24 hours. NHS staff have been singled out by this coalition government for the worst treatment across the public sector.

“Other groups will get their recommended pay increases – for MPs this is 11 per cent.

“In the NHS, many workers are facing serious financial hardship especially at this time of year. It is a national disgrace that 77,000 NHS staff still don’t receive the Living Wage and that many have to rely on food banks. The governments in Wales and Scotland have committed to paying this.

“All we are asking is for fair and decent pay for NHS workers.”

Ian Frame, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust’s Executive Director, Personnel and Development, said: “We would like to reassure patients that, in the event of any future industrial action as a result of the national dispute over pay and conditions of service for NHS workers, we will do our utmost to keep any disruption to a minimum. The Trust’s management and unions are in agreement over the principle of protecting the welfare and safety of our patients and we anticipate that emergency cover would be provided in accordance with the level of staffing that would be provided on a public holiday. In situations such as this, we appreciate the public’s patience and understanding while we try to maintain as normal a service as possible.”