Over 100 strikers at Dewsbury, Pontefract and Wakefield Pinderfields hospitals packed into Wakefield town hall on Thursday afternoon for a rally.
Medical secretaries, admin staff and clerical workers voted unanimously to continue their campaign of industrial action and to escalate if management does not agree to serious negotiations over pay and job cuts.
The strikers are members of the Unison union and overwhelmingly women. Their bosses at the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS trust are threatening pay cuts of up to £2,700 a year for more than 200 workers.
They want to “downband” staff to a lower pay grade. For many workers this would mean effectively working 25 more days a year for nothing.
The meeting came on the third day of a three day strike by 500 workers and followed on a one day strike earlier in the month. This time the minority of admin workers in the Unite union also joined the strike.
Picket lines have been large and enthusiastic every day, despite appalling weather. The strikers has had a major impact inside hospitals with senior managers running round trying to do the strikers’ work.
At the rally striker after striker expressed their support for the action and their anger at the skewed financial priorities of the trust management. Over 250 hospital workers have joined the Mid Yorks Unison branch since the beginning of the dispute in May.
Over £40 million a year goes to repay the trust’s PFI debt. The trust handed over £3 million to consultants Ernst & Young who came up with the pay cut package. Meanwhile the trust’s new chief executive enjoys a salary of £250,000 a year.
Mid Yorks Unison secretary Adrian O’Malley told the rally, “If the trust management goes ahead with cutting our members’ pay, then we must be prepared to escalate our strike action.
“If they get away with this downbanding, they will do it to other workers. Hospital workers all over the country are watching this dispute and supporting our fight.”
Mike Wood, Labour MP for Batley, sent a message of support to the strike. Unison health branches around the country are contributing to the Mid Yorkshire strikers’ hardship fund.
As one Unison steward from Barnsley hospital put it, “Keep up the fight. We are all behind you—because we know our trust would like to do the same to us.”
Send messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org. Send donations to Mid Yorks Unison c/o Trade Union Office, Pinderfields Hospital, Aberford Road, Wakefield WF1 4DG. Make cheques payable to Mid Yorks UNISON 20671.