On 24 November, NHS staff staged their second four hour national strike and continued with a work to rule. This fight to gain a one per cent pay rise saw an enthusiastic picket line of 50 or more people line at Broadgreen hospital, entrances were also picketed and many other hospitals also had large numbers.

 Hospital workers are no doubt up for a fight because they want to stop the loss of pay, but if the trade union leaders do not step up the action we will see staff become disillusioned with the action. Four hour strikes have little impact or leverage.

As a shop steward and Unite branch secretary I suspect the union bureaucracy are keeping the action restricted in order not to ‘embarrass’ the Labour Party in the forthcoming General Election. The desire for union leaders to support Labour in the elections no matter what, means they are trying to prevent longer strike action.

However, continued strike action by NHS workers shows their willingness to fight.

Labour and conservatives are proposing pumping two billion pounds in to the NHS, but they have not mentioned a pay rise for staff!

The rank and file members must not be let down by the leaders of our unions. We lost the pension fight after two strikes within 18 months, because union leaders refused to call the strike action that workers were looking for. We cannot afford to lose this fight for pay.

But the momentum can be lost as it was for a general strike. The TUC allowed it to dissipate in a puff of smoke.

We have the backing of the public and support of fine comrades from around the world. It is the union members who put the f in the word fight.

Decent Pay for NHS staff

• Next – a 24-hours strike!

• Break the link with the Labour Party

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Support PCS strikes

The PCS has carried out a number of strikes recently and the media has portrayed them as being either related to pay or pensions. But this is not the full story.

The civil service has been a poor payer of wages, but there were benefits in the terms, conditions and pensions, which are now being reduced.

More staff than ever are being dismissed for illness (staff have been dismissed for having cancer); hospitalisation can result in dismissal if it occurs more than once – under the auspice of “unable to support absence”. Errors can also result in dismissal or severe disciplinary action. Staff are not robots and can make errors due to the number of cases being dealt with – one mistake can lead to a final written warning.

Privatisation is about giving away public services to the lowest bidder. Private providers are only interested in making profit out of welfare provision including unemployment support, health and pensions, and that means cuts.

One of the hidden elements of privatisation is related to what is known as “Shared Services”. The ‘lowest bidder’ of a contract is able to offer such a low charge because it is stipulated that elements of the work must be based in another country.

It is entirely possible that complex human resource issues would be advised by people at a contact centre in India or elsewhere even though they are not remotely aware of how the civil service operates. They could provide advice on complex issues to managers which could lead to disciplinary action or even the dismissal of staff.

It also means that personal details such as earnings, attendance records, sexuality and race could be stored by private companies anywhere.

But the government is more than happy to award further contracts to these companies! Public bad, private good is related to an indoctrinated zeal.

The attack on civil servants is going hand in hand with the attack on benefits. Many in receipt of benefit work including workers at the Department of Workers and Pensions, because of low pay.

One of the latest areas under attack is child support. Now any single parent seeking financial support from the absent parent, will be charged for the service!

• Decent pay for civil service workers!

• Public sector workers unite against job cuts and privatisation!

*Larry Bowles, Unite Nw106 Branch, NHS Broadgreen Hospital Shop Steward in personal capacity

**Bernard Jones, PCS (Public and Commercial Services Union) branch secretary in personal capacity