England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

Wirral NHS workers’ strike continues strong

By Kevin Corran, UNISON NEC Health Rep (personal capacity) and Socialist Alternative

NHS Clinical Support Workers in Wirral, Merseyside, have now entered their eighth week of strike action. Socialist Alternative members in UNISON send their full solidarity and support.

These workers have voted to take 23 days of strike action in January, as well as the 33 days since August 2023. They are reballoting for further strike action in February, as their determination to win a fair pay rise increases.

Their dispute with the employer is around a rebanding claim from Band 2 to Band 3, which would amount to a wage increase of £2,000 per year. They routinely undertake clinical tasks, such as taking and monitoring blood, performing electrocardiogram tests and inserting cannulas. All these tasks are Band 3 tasks, and performing any of these tasks routinely should trigger a regrade for these vital and low paid workers.

The management, under instruction from the CEO Janelle Holmes, have decided not to pay them, unless they have been undertaking three or more clinical tasks. This position flies in the face of all the other NHS disputes on rebanding, that have been settled across the Merseyside region, and indeed across the entire North West.

In my own NHS Trust in Greater Manchester, we won five years back pay for Band 2 Support Workers who were routinely undertaking Band 3 tasks, without the need for strike action. Many NHS Trusts have been forced to recognise the vital work that is being undertaken by these key workers, and have agreed to a rebanding to Band 3, when the union has surveyed and produced the evidence.

But this is not the position in Wirral University Teaching Hospital Trust, where the CEO and her management team are ignoring the evidence produced by UNISON and are trying to undermine the union action. There clearly seems to be a viciously anti-union perspective operating in this management team, which must be challenged and defeated by the workers.

This is developing into the longest industrial action strike in the history of the NHS, and is testament to the dedication, courage and resilience of the workers. But it is also an indictment of the arrogant and uncaring management style operating in some NHS trusts.

The Trust’s intransigent behaviour is putting the lives of the local community in Wirral at risk, as the continuing industrial action undermines the service delivery at his important facility.

Speaking to those on the picket line has reassured me that these workers have the courage and commitment to win their struggle, and help to develop and protect the health services in Wirral.

It is their workplace, their community and their NHS.

With the backing of more UNISON branches across the country, and ongoing support from the UNISON NEC and the NW Region, these workers will win a victory that will have many lessons for future struggles to protect the NHS from the privatisation agenda.

The staff are currently picketing each workday outside Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge Hospitals from 8-11am. Go along to show your support and send messages of solidarity to norman.robinson@nhs.net.

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