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Tuesday 05 October 2021

Members in England vote to oppose 3% pay award

By MiP

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MiP members in England have voted to oppose the government’s 3% pay award for NHS staff and indicated they would be willing to take part in industrial action.

57% of MiP members who took part in the online ballot, organised by UNISON, voted to oppose the award recommended by the NHS Pay Review Body, which was accepted by the government in July. The turnout among MiP members was 35%.

Although members voting against the award were asked to agree “to take take part in lawful industrial action up to and including strike action”, the ballot does not constitute a legal mandate for strike action under current legislation. UNISON and MiP will now undertake further consultations before deciding how to continue the campaign.

MiP chief executive Jon Restell congratulated members on the 35% turnout, which was unusually high for a trade union pay ballot. “Our members answered the call to make sure their voice was heard on the vital issue of pay,” he said. “One in five of all our members in England actually voted to go to industrial action in support of better pay for NHS staff. That should send a very strong message to the government.

“With inflation already over 3%, the forthcoming rise in NI contributions and rapidly rising fuel bills, there is a real squeeze on the living standards of NHS staff, particularly our lower paid colleagues,” he added. “That is scant reward for their efforts during the pandemic.”

But Restell said the union had more work to do to understand the views of the 65% of members who did not take part in the ballot, and that MiP would take part in a further indicative ballot for UNISON members on the specific question of industrial action.

MiP will also survey members on their hours of work, job demands and health and wellbeing to gather further evidence, and members will discuss the next steps in the pay campaign at the forthcoming MiP summit in November, when the results of the survey will be  published.

As members of both UNISON and the FDA, MiP members voted as part of the UNISON’s national ballot on the pay award. Across UNISON as a whole, there was overwhelming opposition to the Pay Review Body outcome, with 81% of members voting to oppose the 3% award. 

UNISON announced it would carry out a further indicative ballot to gauge if there was enough support to go ahead with a campaign of industrial action. Under current legislation, lawful industrial action must be backed by a majority in a ballot in which at least 50% of the union’s eligible membership have voted.

In an email to UNISON members who opposed the award, Sara Gorton, the union’s head of health, said that while “anger and disappointment are running very high”, many members had not used their vote, and “we don't know what they think or what they are willing to do”. 

“Put simply, this is a numbers game, and in this consultation we have not heard from enough members. Before we can decide on a formal ballot, we need to get a clearer picture,” she added.

  • At the time of publishing, the outcome of the pay ballot in Wales was still awaited and discussions on NHS pay in Northern Ireland were continuing.

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