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Health Workers strike 24.11.

14

Escalate the pay fight to win


Nine NHS unions and staff associations including midwives and nurses
are striking together today for a onepercent pay rise, from 7-11 AM before
a week of working-to-rule. The ConDem coalition is determined to continue to push cuts and privatise the NHS
as part of making workers pay for the
crisis and bank bailout, and open up
public services for profit. The health
workers' pay strike is part of building
the resistance to NHS privatisation,
everyone should support them.
Today's strike is a protest at years of
below-inflation pay rises and now a
pay freeze which add up to a 15 percent cut in the real wages of NHS
workers. A Department of Health
spokesperson said they could not
afford this measly one percent pay
rise "without risking front-line jobs" - if
they raised taxes on the rich instead
of cutting them they could. In reality
the pay freeze is just the last straw for
workers who face job cuts, skyrocketing workloads, privatisation, and a
non-stop offensive by government
ministers and the media attacking the
NHS.
Strike to save the NHS
Every NHS user - i.e. everyone who
is in the 99% as opposed to the 1%! should support this strike. The cuts to
staff and services, the rising waiting
lists and A&E times, the accelerating
transfer of hospital functions and
medical services to the private sector
through outsourcing, all show the
immense damage that the Con-Dem
Health Act is doing to our health service. That damage will be fatal unless
we create a mass revolt to halt and
reverse it -and strikes by the health
workers themselves are a crucial part
of building such a movement. An NHS
with a confident unionised workforce
is also a much less attractive

prospect for private health companies


to bid for. So this dispute has bigger
impact than just pay - its part of the
fight for the future of the health service.
The Tories hope the strikes die out so
they can get on with privatising the
NHS. Sadly, despite our unions funding Labour, Miliband & Co are silent,
also hoping the dispute doesn't escalate and embarrass them before the
general election. But Labour won't
save the NHS, they won't reverse the
years of pay freezes and under-funding.
Escalate the fight
Health workers are under no illusion
that this will be an easy battle but
there is a willingness to take the fight
to the Government.
Today's action is only four hours
again, and comes six weeks after the
first four hour strike on 13 October,
which saw solid, lively picket lines in
Leeds at the LGI and St James, and
around the country. That's a start but
not nearly enough to force the Tories
to back down. The call from some
branches to escalate the next action
to a 24 hour strike is one every worker should back, but even one day
strikes followed by a work-to-rule
aren't enough. Escalating the action two days out, three days, four days,
all out if necessary - would put huge
pressure on the government and
release an outpouring of support from
the rest of the trade union movement
and the public, if it was combined with
demonstrations to save the NHS. The
unions have the resources to do this,
why haven't our leaders launched
such a movement yet?

convinced staff to settle for less (to


take the pressure off the Labour
Welsh government). Meanwhile in the
related local government pay dispute,
the big three (UNITE, Unison, GMB)
have let the government off the hook,
stitching up a deal only a fraction better than what workers had voted to
reject. This has blocked the road to
coordinated action across the public
sector over pay, in order to avoid
embarrassing Ed Miliband in the run
up to 2015.
Rank and File control
Health workers in all the unions need
to get organised to decide what form
of action they need to take, and force
their union leaders to deliver or go
forward without them. Cross union
mass meetings and elected strike
committees could begin to build the
scaffolding for rank and file control of
the strike, to organise the most effective action and block a local-government style sell out. Reps and activists
could take a leaf out of the electricians and teachers disputes in the
last couple of years and call an emergency, unofficial meeting to set up a
grassroots network to push for, and
organise, further action and a strategy
to win.
Workers action and a mass campaign
to save the NHS based on the users,
unions, patients groups, not Labour
politicians, will save the NHS, and
could lay the basis for a new mass
party of the working class, committed
to resolving the intractable crisis capitalism finds itself by the revolutionary
struggle for socialism.
- By a Unite health union member

Meanwhile the danger of a sell-out is


clear. In Wales Unison tops have

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