Manchester’s NHS staff join nationwide strike as Unison vow to continue pay fight

The head of Unison has urged NHS staff to ‘keep on fighting’ after six different unions in Manchester took part in the first nationwide health service walkout for 32 years.

The strike was triggered by the coalition government’s decision to refuse NHS staff the 1% pay rise recommended by an independent pay review body and sparked further outrage after the proposal to award MPs a 9% pay rise earlier this year.

“Thank you so much for all your efforts,” Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis told strikers as their four-hour strike in the NHS in England drew to a close this morning.

“It was a tremendous display of courage, strength and solidarity.

“I’ve been at picket lines all morning and I’ve seen such great spirit and heart. And everywhere I went I saw the public fully supporting our strike.

“They know we’re not asking for the world – just a fair deal for our members who work so hard to look after the health of the nation.”

The strike started at 7am this morning and ran until 11am and will continue with action short of strike until Friday October 17, focusing on ensuring breaks and refusing overtime.

“And that fight does not end here – all week, NHS members will be taking continued action, making sure they take their breaks and for ambulance workers, doing no voluntary overtime,” said the Unison boss.

“Let’s continue to show this government that NHS workers deserve fair pay and the public is supporting them.”

The Royal College of Midwives walked out for the first time since the college opened 133 years ago, joining nurses and ambulance workers on the picket lines.

Hospitals all over Manchester took part in the strike including the MRI, Withington Community Hospital and the Oldham Royal hospital.

The North West ambulance service stated that crews in the Greater Manchester were only responding to life-threatening calls during the strike with police and military personnel standing in.

The decision was to award the pay rise only to those on top of their pay band, excluding up to 60% of healthcare workers who have suffered a three-year pay restraint under the coalition.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt defended the decision earlier this morning, claiming that the rise would cost too much and that a 1% pay rise to those already receiving a 3% rise would lead to more than 14,000 jobs being cut in the next two years.

The strike falls a few weeks after the Labour Party Conference at the Midland Hotel in Manchester, where leader Ed Miliband announced plans to boost NHS funding through ‘mansion tax’ and increase minimum wage by £1.50 an hour by 2020, receiving a warm welcome.

Gill Foden, a pharmacy technician for the NHS Christie Trust in Manchester, says she joined the strike to ‘stand up for what I believe is right’.

Meanwhile, Anthony Mooney, a mental health nurse with The Sussex Partnership, states that he has lost between £5-6,000 over the past few years.

“I showed that to some of my colleagues. They hadn’t quite realised it was that much. It was quite a shock. And because of that they have decided to join the strike.”

Manchester picketers who downed stethoscopes and syringes took to Twitter to share the strike this morning:

Image courtesy of BBC via YouTube with thanks

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