Lincolnshire health visitors started their month-long strike today (18 November) as cracks appeared in the county council’s hardline ‘divide and rule’ policy over future job roles.
Health visitors are striking against plans that could see some of them lose an estimated £150,000 over the duration of their careers.
Unite is due to meet the county council, under the auspices of the conciliation service Acas, tomorrow, (Tuesday 19 November).
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.
But Unite said cracks were appearing in the council’s policy as it had offered 73 higher paid grade 10 roles to health visitors, following the strike action which started in July.
Unite regional officer Steve Syson said: “Our health visitor members are striking today for a month – however, significant cracks are appearing in the council’s two tier jobs policy due to the strike action taken since July.
“We need to keep up the pressure on the authority to achieve the proper grade 10 role for all the health visitors who have the same qualifications.
“Tomorrow Unite and the county council are due to meet under the auspices of the conciliation service Acas to see if we are able to move things forward and finally resolve this dispute for the benefit of the families in Lincolnshire and our members.
“The situation is serious as the council is haemorrhaging health visitors who are leaving for better paid positions elsewhere.
“Since the start of the industrial action the council has had to offer 30 grade 10 roles after the last bout of industrial action and a further 43 since the announcement of the month-long strike.
“Unfortunately, this offer comes with unacceptable strings as Unite would have to agree to accept the continuance of the grade 9 role with the two tier system remaining in place.
“We fundamentally disagree with the council that this lower paid role is appropriate. Therefore, in tandem with the strike action, we are appealing the grade 9 job description through the appeals procedure in the job evaluation scheme. The appeal will be submitted this week.
“The council has also offered improved transitional payments for health visitors transferring from Agenda for Change contract terms to the council contract at grade 10 – which was the reason for the original strike action – but this was only for a selected few, which again would cause more division inside an already fractured workforce.
“We have been amazed and heartened by the support for the health visitors, not just from the Lincolnshire public, but across the country.
“The strong financial support our members have received to support them through the strike shows that people recognise their fight is part of a broader campaign for a fully-resourced health visiting service across England.”
Unite lead professional officer Jane Beach said: “It is shocking that experienced health professionals, who want nothing more than to continue to provide excellent care to the children and families of Lincolnshire, continue not to be listened to.”
Unite represents 76 of the 126 health visitors employed by the county council who voted by 67 per cent to strike.