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Unison NHS members back strikes

Unison's NHS workers, including nurses, occupational therapists, porters, paramedics, medical secretaries, cooks and healthcare assistants have voted to back strike action in a row over pay.

A total of 68% voted in favour of being prepared to take part in a strikes while 32% said no.

In the ballot which also asked if they were prepared to take part in action short of strike action, 88% agreed while 12% voted against.

The dispute is over pay in England, with union officials arguing that 60% of NHS staff and 70% of nurses will not get a pay rise for the next two years.

This has created a "demoralised and demotivated workforce," according to Unison general secretary Dave Prentis. Unison is the UK's largest health union with 300,000 NHS members in England.

There are 10 unions balloting in the NHS over pay, and plans over the date and type of action to be taken are still to be made.

Mr Prentis claimed: "This Government's treatment of NHS workers has angered them and this anger has now turned into action. Refusing to pay them even a paltry 1% shows what the Government really thinks about its health workers. Inflation has continued to rise since 2011 and the value of NHS pay has fallen by around 12%.

"We know health workers don't take strike action lightly or often. The last action over pay was 32 years ago. But we also know a demoralised and demotivated workforce isn't good for patients.

"If we move into industrial action we will work with NHS employers to minimise the impact on patients. But it's not too late for Jeremy Hunt to act to avoid this and we repeat our offer to the Government to negotiate with us. To date the Secretary of State has refused to meet with health unions to negotiate pay."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "We are disappointed that Unison is planning industrial action and has rejected our proposals to give NHS staff at least 1% additional pay this year and at least a further 1% next year.

"NHS staff are our greatest asset and we know they are working extremely hard. This is why despite tough financial times, we've protected the NHS budget and now have 13,500 more clinical staff than in 2010.

"We want to protect these increases and cannot afford incremental pay increases - which disproportionately reward the highest earners - on top of a general pay rise without risking frontline NHS jobs.

"We remain keen to meet with the unions to discuss how we can work together to make the NHS pay system fairer and more affordable."

The Royal College of Midwives is also balloting its members on taking industrial action in a row over pay.

Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the RCM, said: "We congratulate Unison on their ballot result today. I am asking our members who are also being balloted on fair pay in the NHS to join their other union colleagues and vote yes to industrial action.

"Now is the time for midwives to say enough is enough and to show their frustration over the rejection of the justly deserved 1% pay award, and vote yes in our ballot."

The RCM's ballot runs until September 29.

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