Lincolnshire health visitors begin strike

By Dan Parton

| 15 July 2019

Fifty-eight health visitors employed by Lincolnshire County Council have begun a two-day strike over 'no pay rises' and erosion of professional standards.

Some 58 health visitors are striking in Lincolnshire

Trade union Unite confirmed that the strike would go ahead today (15 July) - in what is believed to be the first time health visitors in the county have taken such action.

Talks with the council, under the auspices of conciliation service Acas, failed to resolve the dispute.

The dispute involves 58 health visitors who were transferred to the council from the NHS under Agenda for Change terms in October 2017.

These health visitors are on NHS Agenda for Change pay scales but have had no increases in pay since being transferred to the local authority, which has different pay rates.

Even though council and NHS employees have received wage awards, these health visitors have not - meaning that members have lost more than £2,000 a year since the transfer, according to Unite.

Unite has also claimed that council bosses have removed specialist elements from Level 1 training, which they say means that the workers are health visitors in name only.

These changes, brought in after the professionals transferred to the local authority, mean that leadership, planning, evaluating and managing complex safeguarding skills are now only included at Level 2.

Labour MP for Lincoln Karen Lee, tweeted her support for the strike.

Sally Savage, assistant director of children's services at the council, has previously disputed Unite's claims about reducing the health visitors' professional responsibilities and duties, and said that the council's pay scales are slightly higher than that of Agenda for Change.

There are 111 full-time equivalent health visitor posts in the council and the others are either on grade 10 contracts or began their employment after October 2017. There are also some student health visitors.

Unite regional officer Steve Syson said: "It is a sad indictment of the council bosses that they have allowed the situation to reach this stage.

"However, we are faced with a local authority more concerned with giving its former chief executive Keith Ireland a scandalous £292,000 pay off for a mere six months work than paying its own health visitors the rate for the job.

"That said, Unite's door remains open for constructive talks at any time to settle this dispute for the benefit of our members and, ultimately, for the welfare of the families of Lincolnshire."

Heather Sandy, interim director of education at the council, said that the county "remains open" to ongoing discussions.

"The county council has always valued the professionalism and work of our health visitors and the support they provide to Lincolnshire families,"  said Sandy.

"We were keen to avoid strike action which has been threatened by the Unite union which represents approximately one third of our health visiting workforce."

The council has arranged cover, particularly in areas such as safeguarding and primary birth visit and Sandy added: "No one will be left without support."

Further stoppages are planned with 24 hour strikes on 19 and 22 July, which will be followed by another 48 hour strike on the 25th. The health visitors had voted by an 84 per cent majority to strike.

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