Midwives join growing revolt over NHS pay

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The Independent Online
Almost a million nurses, midwives and health-service workers are considering industrial action as a wave of anger sweeps through the National Health Service over their pay award.

In the most startling expression of the dissatisfaction, the moderate Royal College of Midwives announced yesterday that it was inviting its 36,000 members to drop the 100-year-old "no strike" rule and indicate how far they would be prepared to go in taking industrial action.

Julia Allison, secretary of the RCM, described the offer of 1 per cent across the board with up to 2 per cent to be negotiated locally as "contemptible". "Midwives see this award as the kiss of Judas," she said. Early next week the college will ballot all members on the no-strike rule and ask if they would withdraw their labour, operate overtime bans, work strictly to their grade or refuse to do administrative work.

At the same time the health service union Unison announced plans for a national campaign for "fair pay" involving all its 440,000 members, including 240,000 nurses. It is organising demonstrations on 30 March at every hospital in Britain.

In a consultation exercise to be launched in six weeks, Unison will ask its members to state if they want to reject the "1 plus 2 per cent" deal. Yesterday, the Health Visitors Association with 15,000 members added its weight to the pressure on the Government. For the first time ever, the HVA is balloting members on the pay award.

The Royal College of Nursing, with 300,000 members, has already rejected the pay award and is considering whether to abandon its "no-strike" policy. It has asked John Major to intervene in the dispute.

The Department of Health has been taken by surprise by the strength of feeling and conformity of view across the NHS.

Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for Health, says that there is enough money in the system to pay nurses and allied staff the full 3 per cent. "We hope staff will consider this reassurance in the coming weeks," a DoH spokesman said yesterday.