Members of Unison have voted to conduct a ballot to decide whether to strike if the introduction of seven-day services is funded by reducing staff take-home pay.
At the union's annual conference in Liverpool on 14 April, delegates 'overwhelmingly' voted in favour of a ballot should unsocial hours payments be cut as a result of seven-day services. If the ballot takes place and is in favour of industrial action, it would be the second time in a year that NHS workers have chosen to strike.
UNISON's head of health Christina McAnea said: 'Any move to a seven-day NHS must not cost staff a penny. Our members made their views clear today. Come after our unsocial hours payments and we will ballot for industrial action. As the biggest healthcare union, we are always willing to work with employers to improve and extend NHS services if this is based on patients' needs and is not just another cost-cutting exercise.'
The move comes after the DH commissioned the NHS Pay Review Body to investigate the financial cost of introducing seven-day services. In the evidence that the DH submitted, they asserted that the extension of services must be done within the context of public sector pay restraint, and therefore should be done without additional funding. This has sparked anger from healthcare workers, as they say that this means that unsocial hours will have to be cut.
Ms McAnea added: 'Once again the Tories want working people to pay the price of their austerity agenda. Staff already sacrifice their nights and weekends to care for patients and it's only right that they are fairly rewarded. After five years of pay freezes, workers have come to rely on these payments to survive. Our members took their first action in 34 years last year over pay. If the Tories get elected in May and come after NHS workers' pay again we could be in dispute for the second time in a year. This industrial unrest, fear and anger among NHS workers is the real Tory legacy.'