The trade union consultations on the NHS pay award are coming to an end. The Unison ballot runs until 10 September, the RCN finishes on 13th, GMB on 17th, and Unite on 24th. The next days and weeks are the last chance for members to vote and for activists to get out and encourage them to reject.
The award doesn’t get anywhere near the claims of the unions. All have stated that it is not good enough. RCN, GMB and Unite have recommended rejection. It is likely that all the results will be to reject the deal. It’s obvious to all NHS workers that a lower than inflation pay award of 3% is inadequate, does nothing to address the years of pay cuts and will not resolve the 100,000 vacancies across the NHS that leave us overwhelmed with the workload.
The question remains whether the turnout will be high enough to lead to formal ballots. The unions have been poorly organised across many workplaces for so long that running campaigns takes active and determined leadership. Materials and emails have been sent out centrally, but the unions have fallen short in mobilising. Alongside the members’ ballot, Unison has run a low key branch consultation which seems to have been designed to counteract any positive result. The RCN have decided on a process that would mean two more ballots before any action could be taken. The national campaigns haven’t done anything to give exhausted workers confidence.
Nevertheless, activists need to prepare to build from the ballot results, arguing for formal ballots on the basis of reject outcomes to the consultation. In Unison we should argue for a disaggregated formal ballot, if the strength of the turnout is mixed across the country. The priority in every workplace is to build cross union organisation, and seek out new union activists to build for the future on pay and other issues.