Unite: Lincolnshire health visitors to strike for a month over council’s ‘divide and rule’ jobs move
4 Nov 2019 11:41 AM
More than 70 Lincolnshire health visitors will strike for a month from Monday 18 November in the deepening row as county council plans to ‘divide and rule’ over future job roles, which could see some health visitors lose tens of thousands of pounds over their working lives.
Unite, the union, said today (Monday 4 November) that the health visitors will start their strike at 00:01 on 18 November 2019, ending at 23:59 on Friday 13 December over plans that could see some of them lose £150,000 over the duration of their careers.
The latest strike follows the first bout of strike action – 32 days since July with the loss of around 450 shifts over health visitors having lost more than £2,000 a year since they were transferred from the NHS - and centres on the council’s current insistence on different contracts for grade 9 and grade 10 health visitors.
Those striking are not just the health visitors, who have been denied legitimate pay rises by the council since being transferred in October 2017, but health visitors on the lower grade 9 and higher grade 10.
Unite argues that as all health visitors have the same community nurse qualifications their role is equivalent to a grade 10 job role – and, therefore, they should be paid the same rate for the job.
The scale of the crisis is highlighted by the fact that more than 20 health visitors have left or are leaving since the dispute started in the summer - 14 have already gone and a further eight have job offers and will be departing soon.
Unite regional officer Steve Syson said:
“The decision to hold a month long strike demonstrates the deepening crisis in the county’s health visitor service and the adverse impact this is having on Lincolnshire families and children.
“Now is the time for the council to come to the table to resolve this dispute once and for all before the strike begins. Already the council is haemorrhaging health visitors.”
Unite regional secretary for the East Midlands Paresh Patel said:
“This is a crisis entirely of this cash-rich council’s making and this month long strike by health visitors is unprecedented in modern times – and a searing indictment of the council’s narrow minded and incompetent managerial style.
“Unite will give our health visitor members maximum support during the coming strike – their fight is not just for Lincolnshire, but they are in the vanguard of raising awareness of the crisis enveloping the profession across England.”
The Lincolnshire dispute, in many respects, mirrors the crisis across England which has seen a 31 per cent drop in health visitor numbers since 2015. There were 7,026 health visitors in England in June this year compared with a peak of 10,309 in October 2015.
In a letter to the county council’s interim director of education Heather Sandy, Unite regional officer Steve Syson wrote:
“The relationship breakdown that has occurred as a result of this artificial separation of the role is detrimental to the service and we both know that people are leaving as a result.
“The demonstration of a further vote for industrial action shows the ill feeling within the teams with regards to the career progression scheme and the possibility of getting stuck at the top of a grade 9.
“This would mean a direct pay cut of £4,000 per annum in relation to what a health visitor can earn in the health service, or indeed at other councils.
“Your health visitor staff are highly qualified intelligent people and it does not take long to work out that floating at the top of a grade 9, will cost them upwards of £150,000 over their lifetime working for Lincolnshire county council.
“Compound this with a fixed pay freeze of three years now, is there any real wonder that staff are either leaving or considering their options.
“The council should seriously look to address the three year pay freeze imposed on staff because this is a direct driver of your most highly qualified staff voting with their feet.”
Unite represents 76 of the 126 health visitors employed by the county council who voted by 67 per cent to strike.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940