Prolongued strike action in West Yorkshire hospitals has shown that attacks by the bosses can be fought off.
Health bosses at the Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust covering Dewsbury and Wakefield thought they could begin an onslaught on the wages and condition of staff with an attack on what they perceived to be the weakest workers, namely admin staff. They attempted in part to recoup £21.8 million of cuts over 2012/13 by downgrading admin workers which meant that some of them were facing wage cuts of £2,800 per year.
Management mis-calculated badly when they thought that admin staff would accept this and pave the way for attacks on other workers. After a successful ballot for industrial action the 2,500 UNISON members took strike action 9 times for 24 hour periods and waged a staunch press campaign hitting the headlines of local TV and building up public support with picket lines well attended. The strike action prevented management from imposing wage cuts and forced them to negotiate through ACAS where management were forced into a deal that will see the salary of staff protected for a three year period.
Yes in many ways this puts the battle off to future date, but to millions of workers who are burdened by attacks from the government it shows that resolute strike action can get results.
Indeed now the members are bracing themselves for a fight against management’s proposals for a ‘new partnership agreement’, which disgracefully has been backed by the Royal College of Nursing and could result in the UNISON branch secretary and Socialist Party member Adrian O’Malley being made redundant when his post is deleted.
If workers are truly to be defended we need more rank and file organisation of workers in different unions, by-passing the bureaucracy of the unions to ferment independent and collective action to defend all workers and not just sectional interests.