Dundee hospital protest
Both Tories and Labour have starved the NHS of funds. Communist candidates in Scotland say it should meet the growing needs of the population, not operate according to what capitalism can afford
ROBIN HUNTER, Unison branch secretary for Dundee hospitals, told me that the call was going out to his members to attend a Dundee lunchtime protest rally in the city square at 12.30pm on March 30. He was hoping for a good turnout, as all levels of hospital staff are very unhappy with the government’s one percent national offer.
None of the unions in Dundee want locally negotiated pay deals, but one of the reasons for setting up the trusts in the first place was to create conditions for splitting the unions.
Unison has had to enter complicated negotiating patterns with the trust. It contains four separate committees, but ignores the hospital cleaners who work for sub-contractors and are non-unionised.
“Our jobs are the worst paid and the most insecure,” one cleaner from the Dundee Royal Infirmary told us, so it is not surprising that they feel let down by their co-workers.
One committee - for doctors and dentists - has had its pay claim settled nationally, much to the anger of the other three committees who face difficult negotiations with the cash-strapped Dundee NHS Trust.
Robin Hunter thinks that management will not be able to split the other three committees - for nurses and midwives, professional and scientific staff, and support workers - over the three percent national demand. Industrial action is likely if it is not agreed, especially as the second largest union in the health service, the RCN, will probably now accept the need for industrial muscle. The government is due to announce the national pay offer for support staff this week. It will not be more than one percent.
Robin believes there is room for local flexibility over peripherals like annual leave and ‘pay spines’. He said, “Hopefully we will be able to hold the line on national conditions until the next election, when a Labour government will create different conditions.”
Alas, here hospital staff are likely to be disappointed. Tony Blair can afford to dump clause four, but he cannot commit himself to repealing any Tory legislation. Even in opposition the Labour Party blights the prospects of the workers by seeming to offer an alternative. In fact Labour is strangling the struggle with soft words and no action.
We know what Blair means when, on Wednesday night, he talked about modernising the “market-orientated economy” and “eliminating the social evil of welfare dependence”. Very thinly veiled rhetoric to make the system work for the bosses at the expense of workers.
The way things are, hospital staff are going to be treated like dirt until we take action ourselves.
The Communist Party, campaigning against health cuts both in Dundee and around the country, knows that everybody is sick to death of the erosion of the health service that is so important to them. That is why in our manifesto we unambiguously demand:
- Abolish waiting lists
- No private practice in NHS institutions
- Free medical, dental and optical treatment
Full state funding of Aids research. NHS care for Aids sufferers