NHS staff in Redditch joined 400,000 health workers across the country in staging a four hour walkout in protest at the Government’s decision to block a one per cent pay rise.
Back office workers and frontline staff formed a picket line outside the front of the Alexandra Hospital between 7am and 11am on Monday (October 13).
Members of unions including Unison, Unite and the GMB took part as well as the Royal College of Midwives – the first time midwives have gone on strike in the organisation’s 133 year history.
The row revolves around Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s decision to ignore the NHS Pay Review Body’s recommendation for a one per cent pay rise for all staff. Those at the top of their pay band get the rise but not those who received an increase due to pay progression, which on average is about three per cent. The unions say that means 60 per cent of NHS workers would not get a pay rise.
But Mr Hunt said the Government could not afford to give the one per cent rise to those staff receiving the pay progression increase as it would mean the loss of about 4,000 nurses next year and 10,000 nurses the year after.
Among the Alex staff striking was midwife Sam Dimmock who said many staff taking part had used their day off to minimise the impact of the strike on patients and the support from the public had been excellent.
“We have had lots of car horns beeping, people waving and calling out the window offering their support because they feel, as we do, we’re not asking for much, we’re asking for one per cent which would be the first pay rise in a good number of years. It doesn’t seem excessive, particularly when you see what MPs are getting in this pay round which is nine per cent.”
Psychologist Ann Meaden added for her it was about more than just pay but how the Government was portraying NHS workers.
“We’re being portrayed as monsters and that’s not true. Most of us care a great deal about our patients and we want to be acknowledged as caring and working for the people of this country rather than against them.”
A spokeswoman for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said just 29 staff took action or unplanned leave and due to the low numbers involved services were not affected.
The biggest impact of the walkout was felt by West Midlands Ambulance Service where about a third of crews went out on strike, with others responding only to life-threatening emergencies. With less ambulances on the road bosses pleaded with the public not to call 999 unless it was a genuine emergency. But their call went largely ignored with demand remaining at its usual level.
The service reported at one stage about 40 calls were stacked up with no crews to send to them.