The union Unison has announced a further strike date in England next month in what it described as “a serious escalation” of its ongoing NHS pay dispute with the government.
Nurses, healthcare assistants, ambulance staff and other workers belonging to the union will strike across 16 NHS trusts and ambulance services – more than previous strikes – on Wednesday 8 March.
It comes after the UK Government agreed to meet for “intensive” pay talks with the Royal College of Nursing today, but not with the other health unions involved in the row.
Unison has warned that choosing to meet with just one of the five health unions could make “a bad situation much worse”.
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said NHS members would be “furious” over the latest developments.
“Not least because a deal just for nurses cannot possibly work, and nurses belong to other unions too,” she said.
Unison members at NHS Blood and Transplant, Great Ormond Street Hospital, the Tavistock and Portman, Liverpool Women’s Hospital and the Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS foundation trusts will be among those walking out for the first time following the results of the union’s successful strike reballot last week.
“Choosing to speak to one union and not others won’t stop the strikes and could make a bad situation much worse”
They will be joined by ambulance staff at four services in England – South Central, East of England, West Midlands and East Midlands, also now able to take action following the second strike vote.
The union had already hosted strike action in December and January at five other ambulance services in London, Yorkshire, the North East, North West and South West, and at Liverpool University Hospitals and Liverpool Heart and Chest NHS foundation trusts. These organisations will also be included in the new strike action on 8 March.
After reballoting organisations where a strike mandate had been narrowly missed in England, Unison could now see 32,000 of its NHS members in England walk out on that day next month.
Unison said its latest action was “a serious escalation of the dispute and a direct result of the government’s failure to hold proper pay talks with health unions”.
Ms McAnea said: “Unfortunately for patients, staff and anyone that cares about the NHS, the strikes go on.
“There can be no pick-and-mix solution. NHS workers in five unions are involved in strike action over pay, staffing and patient care.
“Choosing to speak to one union and not others won’t stop the strikes and could make a bad situation much worse.”
She added: “The entire NHS team is absolutely determined to stand firm for better patient care.
“They’ll be furious at the government’s failure to invite their union in for talks.
“Not least because a deal just for nurses cannot possibly work, and nurses belong to other unions too.”
The prime minister was “condemning patients to many more months of disruption” because of his choice to hold “solo talks”, she warned.
When approached for comment, the Department of Health and Social Care pointed Nursing Times to its ‘NHS strikes fact sheet’, which was last updated on 20 February to reflect the news that junior doctors had also voted to strike.