Thousands of NHS workers, including mental health nurses, paramedics and ambulance staff, have voted to strike in protest at a derisory pay deal.
Unite, which balloted 77, 000 workers, said there was a 3-1 vote in favour of industrial action, with just over half backing walkouts. The union said industrial action would start before Christmas although officials would not decide until later this week what form the action will take.
Unite said the welfare of patients would be “paramount” during the industrial action, but added that NHS workers were angry at a deal worth 8% over three years, which was imposed by the Government earlier this year.
Joint general secretary Derek Simpson said: “The Government’s stated aim of controlling inflation with public sector pay restraint was just wrong before. After the economic meltdown, it is completely ludicrous. Pay cuts will only make recession longer and deeper. It’s time for the Government to reconsider its policy on NHS pay. ”
Unite’s national officer for health, David Fleming, added: “The stand that our members have taken against the derisory three-year pay deal imposed by ministers has been vindicated.
“Our members were appalled and angry at the three-year pay deal imposed by the Government in the spring. Inflation has now broken through the 5% barrier and their household bills are increasing on an almost daily basis. They were also upset that the Government undermined the independence of the pay review body by imposing its own settlement.
“The door is still open for the government to reopen negotiations on pay before any action commences and our members would welcome such an initiative. Ministers should cease using the argument that public sector pay fuels inflation, which has been discredited by most reputable economists.
“Whatever action our members take, emergency cover will be maintained at all times and the welfare of patients and clients will remain paramount.”
The government sparked a row with health workers over pay, raising the threat of widespread industrial action, although the deal was accepted by unions, including Unison.