Lincolnshire health visitors are ratcheting up their campaign for pay justice and maintaining their professional standards by staging a week-long strike next month, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, announced today.
Unite accused the hardline county council bosses of failing in their public duty by making no constructive efforts to resolve the impasse and of ‘starving’ the health visitors of legitimate pay rises.
The dispute centres on Unite’s calculation that its 58 health visitor members have lost more than £2,000 a year since they were transferred from the NHS to Lincolnshire county council in October 2017.
The week-long strike will run from Monday 9 September to Friday 13 September inclusively – and will be on the top of the 17 days already taken or scheduled.
Unite regional officer Steve Syson said: “The Conservative-led council’s treatment of these employees takes the biscuit, especially at a time when the number of health visitors in England is at the lowest level since September 2009.
“These dedicated employees have been denied cost of living rises since October 2017, even though other council employees have received pay awards in that period.
“Ironically, if the health visitors had remained in the NHS, which was their wish, they would have received pay awards.
“To compound this, the council is failing in its public duty to resolve this issue and is adamantly refusing to consider reasonable proposals from Unite, while allowing the families in Lincolnshire, many of whom are in vulnerable circumstances, to suffer from a depleted service.
“We know this action is impacting on service delivery, but hardline council bosses are choosing to bury their collective head in the sand. However, our members have been buoyed up by the tremendous support they have received from the public.
“Our members have been told by well-remunerated managers there are no future pay awards for them until they retire and, if they don’t like it, they can leave and work elsewhere.
“As a result, health visiting staff at Lincolnshire county council have left and will continue to do so, while the council buries it head in the sand, and they have an opportunity to leave in favour of returning to the NHS working in non-health visiting roles – it should not be forgotten that these nurses have highly transferable skills.
“Starving employees of pay awards is untenable and unrealistic in the long term – that said, Unite’s door is open 24/7 for serious talks with the council to resolve this dispute.
“Health visitors nationally are leaving the service in their droves, with numbers dropping by some 30 per cent from their peak of more than 10,000 in 2015 to about 7,100 currently.
“These grim figures paint the real picture, which is that this service is under attack nationally and the demise in numbers will have major adverse impacts in the future for young people, who are being deserted in their hour of need.”
The health visitors are on the NHS Agenda for Change pay scales, but have had no increases in pay since being transferred to the local authority which has different pay rates – even though both council and NHS employees have received wage awards, these health visitors have not.
Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA), is also seriously concerned about the downgrading of the health visitors’ professional status, resulting in fewer staff doing the specialist health visitor role.