More than 70 Lincolnshire health visitors are being balloted for strike action as the long running pay dispute escalates with county council bosses trying to ‘divide and rule’ over future job roles.

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Monday 7 October) that the new ballot would not only involve the health visitors who have been denied legitimate pay rises by the council since October 2017, but health visitors on the lower grade 9 and higher grade 10.

The ballot opens on Friday 11 October and closes on Friday 25 October.

Unite said that the dispute had now escalated from the first bout of strike action - 32 days since July with the loss of around 450 shifts – which centred on health visitors having lost more than £2,000 a year since they were transferred from the NHS - to the council’s insistence on different contracts for grade 9 and grade 10 health visitors.

Unite argues that as all health visitors have the same community nurse qualifications, the same workplace training and in carrying out the health visitor role to the professional standards required by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (the statutory regulator of health visitors), their role is equivalent to a grade 10 job role.

Unite believes all health visitors should therefore be graded and paid accordingly – and that the council’s failure to properly evaluate the role of health visitors will lead to pay inequality, with those on grade 9 and old NHS contracts not being paid for their true job’s worth.

Unite said that the county council’s continual refusal to negotiate constructively since strike action originally commenced in the summer was having an adverse impact on Lincolnshire families with babies and young children.

The ballot centres on: “The employer’s failure to properly evaluate the role of health visitors and the creation and reinforcement of a two tier health visitor role by the recent offer of Lincolnshire county council contracts.

“Unite is not in agreement with the current structure at the council with regard to the division of a health visitor role into two separate job descriptions with two different contracts.”

Unite regional officer Steve Syson said: “This dispute has now escalated due to the fact that the council has provocatively divided the health visitor role into two separate jobs.

“This tawdry ‘divide and rule’ sleight-of-hand manoeuvre from this cash rich council, with a surplus of £188m for 2018/19, needs to be exposed.

“We are now balloting all our health visitor members for a new mandate for strike action as the council’s imposition of a two tier health visitor role and their push to recruit into these roles has pushed our hand.

“I have been engaging with both grade 9 lower level health visitors, along with grade 10 members, as it will affect their role going forward and, under the career progression scheme, the council is hell-bent on implementing, the grade 10 roles can be held back from pay progression, if they do not meet arbitrary targets set by council bosses.

“Our case is simple and that is all health visitors have had the same community nurse qualifications and workplace training – and therefore they should be on the same grade 10 contracts with the same pay scales after preceptorship for newly qualified health visitors for a period of two years. 

“I hope all our members fully support this ballot, because, if they don’t vote to take action, they will be accepting the division of the role and for those that don’t move onto a grade 10 it will mean a loss of £4,000 per year, which is totally unacceptable.”

Unite regional secretary for the East Midlands Paresh Patel said: “The council’s blinkered action has already led to some of our very experienced members leaving their job to seek alternative employment where their qualifications are better respected and this drift will continue.

“Our members are forever conscious that those who are suffering most are Lincolnshire families with young children – and for this reason alone, we call on this hard line council to come to the negotiating table for constructive talks.”

Unite represents 72 of the 126 health visitors employed by the county council.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn  on 07967 665869 and/or Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940

Email: shaun.noble@unitetheunion.org

Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org 

This summer’s strike action is the first time that the county’s health visitors have taken strike action in defence of their pay and professional standards; given extra piquancy by the controversy over the council  handing its former chief executive Keith Ireland a £292,000 pay off for a mere six month’s work.

NHS staff in England last year accepted a three year pay deal which, for the majority of staff, meant a 6.5 per cent hike in pay over the three years.
 
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.