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Health unions to ballot on industrial action

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Unison, Unite and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) have announced that they will ballot their members on industrial action over pay.

Following a consultation on industrial action by the RCM, 94 per cent of midwives said they were prepared to strike. Nearly half (46. 5 per cent) of RCM members responded to the consultation. This will be the first time that midwives will be balloted over industrial action.

The ballot of eligible members in England will take place in September with action planned to start in October, dependent on the result of the ballot.

Cathy Warwick, RCM chief executive, said: ‘This is a step that our board has not taken lightly. Hard-working midwives are deeply concerned that the independent Pay Review Body is being ignored and the NHS pay structure threatened.

'Midwives are at the end of their tether. They have already accepted long-term pay restraint and changes to their pension and terms and conditions.'

Ms Warwick has assured that any action will not affect the safety of mothers and babies.

Dan Poulter, the parliamentary undersecretary of state for health service, has previously told Independent Nurse that he was ‘disappointed' that midwives have expressed support for industrial action.

Unison will ballot its 300,000 NHS members in England for strike action. The ballot will begin on 28 August and run until 18 September.

Christina McAnea, Unison head of health, said: 'Balloting for strike action is not an easy decision - especially in the NHS. But this Government is showing complete contempt for NHS workers. It has swept aside the Pay Review Body's recommendations and ignored the union's call for a fair deal. Our members are angry at the way they are being treated and we are left with little choice but to ballot for action.

‘We hope to work closely with the other health unions to plan and coordinate action. It is not too late however for Jeremy Hunt to agree to further talks, without pre-conditions, to settle the dispute.'

A vote for industrial action by Unison members will lead to a strike in early October, followed by further strikes and action short of a strike across autumn and winter.

Unite's ballot papers will be distributed from 26 August asking members whether they wish to take strike action or industrial action short of a strike. The ballot closes on 26 September.

Unite head of health Rachael Maskell, said: ‘We are calling on our members to give us a strong mandate for industrial action. This will send a crystal clear message to health secretary Jeremy Hunt that he needs to sit down with the unions and listen to our proposals for fair pay for the biggest workforce in this country.

‘Industrial action will be carefully calibrated to balance the real and deep anger that our members feel about their falling incomes, with concern for patient care which is paramount for the health professionals we represent.'

These ballots are in response to the Government's decision to reject the independent Pay Review Body's recommendations to give all NHS workers a one per cent pay rise.

Only members in England will be balloted this time, as the Scottish government accepted the independent Pay Review Body's recommendations to increase pay by one per cent and Wales only announced last week that it will not be paying the uplift. Members in Wales will be consulted at a later date. Northern Ireland has not announced its decision on pay yet.

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