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Thursday, 18 November 2010

Our NHS, Our Future - report of UNISON Health SGE 17 November‏

UNISON health Care SGE today agreed that 'Our NHS, Our Future' will be the theme of next year's health conference which in April will come at a critical time for the NHS. With the Coalition Government's White Paper - which will bring about the most fundamental threat to the NHS since its inception - the SGE today heard about the wide range of campaigning and organising work which is already underway.

Under the banner of Million Voices, the health sector has launched Our NHS, Our Future to build alliances with other trade unions, community groups, users, political and academic links to build the most broad-based and united campaign against the Government's plans for the NHS. Regions have been building alliances locally and will continue to build organisation in workplaces.

The SGE also heard that health membership has grown and this is down to some of the fantastic success of the 3 Companies organising project, the Hidden Workforce project and branches going out into workplaces to talk to health workers about the threats being faced in terms of privatisation, and also attacks on terms and conditions.

Health workers earning over £21,000 are already subject to a 2 year pay freeze; there is the Hutton Review of Pensions; the move by some Trusts in Norwich and Manchester to impose incremental pay freezes, new detrimental conditions for new staff in an attempt to reduce their pay bills to meet budget deficits.

Support was also offered to outsourced workers who potentially will be taking industrial action against Compass Medirest in pursuit of Agenda for Change terms and conditions in Southampton and Bucks Hospitals. If they are forced into taking industrial action the region will be sending out letters of appeal for solidarity messages and financial support.

It is important for UNISON to get the message out to the public that the NHS is not safe, and although the Government are saying it is ring-fenced the reality is that means a reduction in funding as around 3% per year is needed to keep up with rising costs of new technologiesand treatments. Additionally, health money is being used to shore up the funding gap in local government social care provision.

Motions reflecting the key issues were agreed to be submitted by the SGE on Defending the NHS; Building Alliances; NHS Pay; Regulation; Partnership working in difficult times; NHS Knowledge and Skills Framework; Health and Safety Enforcement; Equalities, and Organising and Recruitment. There was also a presentation on the Hutton Review of pensions and it was agreed this will be a critical issue for our members.

All in all the SGE acknowledged the huge challenges faced by the NHS as part of the Coalition Government's overall attacks on public services and public sector workers. All health branches and members will be urged to attend the TUC National Demonstration on March 26 - 'Speak up for Public Services', however UNISON has set the pace and the health group will continue to support branches, members and make sure our message that the NHS is not safe in this Government's hands is heard loud and clear. The fight for the NHS, Our Future has started.

Clare Williams