08:27 Monday 24th November 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
DOTTY MCLEOD: A second week of strike action by NHS workers is starting this morning. There are picket lines at hospital buildings across Cambridgeshire. Staff including midwives, nurses and paramedics are involved. They’re not happy about a Government decision to give them either a 1% pay rise or an annual increment, but not both. Sue Marchant’s been at Addenbrookes Hospital this morning. She caught up with Martin Booth who is the Cambridge Health Unison Branch Manager, and asked him about the turnout at the picket line.
MARTIN BOOTH: Well we’re certainly pleased with the response that we’re getting. We’ve got a number of members as you might have seen here, picketing the various entrances. And the people going into work, a lot of them not on strike for various reasons, but they are very supportive of the case that we’ve been making this morning.
SUE MARCHANT: So for those who are not aware, why are you striking?
MARTIN BOOTH: Because 1% which is what all public sector workers have been offered is way below the rise in the cost of living. In the case of health workers it’s even worse, because we’re recommended to get a 1% pay rise, but Jeremy Hunt said we’re not even going to get that. The only people getting that are the people at the top of their pay bands, but there’s about two thirds of health workers who are not at the top of the pay band. They’re getting no pay rise to make up for the rise in the cost of living this year, and next year we’ve not been promised anything at all. We can’t go on like this.
SUE MARCHANT: This isn’t the first strike though, is it? So where does this fit in with the strategy of what you’re trying to achieve?
MARTIN BOOTH: Well this is the second round of industrial action, a four hour strike, followed by a week of taking action short of a strike. Basically the strategy is to get the Government to talk about giving a pay rise to us at least equal to what other public sector workers are getting, and to implement the recommendations of the pay review body. But in the longer term we need to catch up, especially in Cambridge, where as we know housing costs in particular are making it very very hard for lower paid workers to survive at all. There needs to be a real discussion about how health workers are going to carry on, otherwise we won’t have enough people to provide a service.
SUE MARCHANT: Now many of the people here who are on your picket line are going to work afterwards, so what other action is taking place this week? Because it’s going to be a hard week for them.
MARTIN BOOTH: That’s right. Well the other action this week is action short of a strike. Basically it means people taking their breaks when they’re meant to, not working unpaid overtime. There was a survey came out last week from Unison to show that something like two thirds of health workers are working beyond their hours and not getting paid for it, and that’s just a disgrace. It shows how dedicated health workers are, but it doesn’t pay the bills. So people will be taking that sort of action this week.
SUE MARCHANT: Do you think your strikes are going to get longer?
MARTIN BOOTH: We’ll have to see what happens. We’d like to .. one thing that was clear from the last strike and I think from today is that we’ve got public support on our side. I think that the politicians need to wake up. They need to understand that they haven’t got the public behind them on this. Let’s hope they can see that they after today and after this week they need to sit down and talk. They need to come to a settlement like they’ve done in other parts of the United Kingdom, and treat us fairly.
SUE MARCHANT: And what about the message to patients whose treatment is going to be afffected by this action?
MARTIN BOOTH: Well we’re obviously trying to minimise the effect on patients, because our quarrel is not wih patients. We appreciate that some non -urgent procedures may be affected by today’s action, and we’re very sorry about that. But quite frankly we wouldn’t do this if we didn’t have to, and I’m sure this is what other members will have said to you as well. We’ve been trying to talk and talk and talk and been getting nowhere, so the message is to say please support us in trying to get this government to treat health workers fairly as part of treating the NHS fairly.
DOTTY MCLEOD: That’s Sue Marchant talking to Martin Booth the Branch Manager of the Cambridge Health Unison group.
Government statement on this page.