Lincolnshire health visitors announce more strike action

By David Harris

| 07 August 2019

Health visitors in Lincolnshire have announced more strikes and rallies in their campaign for better pay and higher professional standards.

Striking Lincolnshire health visitors have had "tremendous support" in their communities, according to Unite. Image: Unite

Unite, the union that represents them, says 58 health visitors will hold two 48-hour strikes later this month on top of demonstrations today (7 August) in Gainsborough, tomorrow (8 August) in Lincoln and on Friday (9 August) in Louth.

The two new strikes are on 15-16 August and 19-20 August. The latest action follows previous action in July.

The dispute is about Unite's contention that its Lincolnshire health visitors have lost more than £2,000 a year since they were transferred under Agenda for Change terms from the NHS to Lincolnshire County Council in October 2017.

The union also argues that an erosion of professional responsibilities, with fewer staff doing the specialist health visitor role, will hurt vulnerable families.

Talks with the council under the auspices of conciliation service Acas have so far failed to resolve the dispute, although they are continuing.

Unite regional officer Steve Syson said: "Our members have had tremendous support in their local communities by a public that recognises the important work they do for families and children throughout Lincolnshire.

"However, they have been met by a brick wall in the form of a council that remains intransigent, despite three meetings under the auspices of the conciliation service, Acas.

"The attitude of the council is immoral as it is denying our members legitimate pay rises. 

"The council has proffered 30 grade-10 jobs, which they have conjured out of nowhere, that may ensure this pay increase.

"But these contracts are shrouded in secrecy so we don't know what would be required from our members - it could mean a long-term erosion of employment condition.

"Also, these contracts are not enough to cover all of our 58 members."

Heather Sandy, interim director for education at Lincolnshire County Council, said: "Following requests from the Unite union, the council has continued to engage in talks overseen by Acas to try to resolve the current dispute. 

"Unite represent approximately one third of our health visiting workforce and recent talks have been constructive. The council are considering some suggestions discussed within the meetings with the aim of reaching agreement with the union but we remain committed to moving ahead with career progression plans for our health visitor workforce.

"We value the professionalism and work of our health visitors and the support they provide to Lincolnshire families and have always been keen to avoid strike action.

"The council will now implement a career and pay progression scheme which would mean health visitors will be offered salaries beyond those available in the NHS. For those at the higher end of these salaries, evidence of their competencies to work at that senior level will be required. 

"We continue to have plans in place to cover absences, particularly in the most vulnerable areas such as safeguarding, primary birth visits and families with the highest levels of need. No-one will be left without support."

The health visitors voted for the strike with an 84 per cent majority and the dispute has been further fuelled by a controversy over the council agreeing a £292,000 payoff to its former chief executive Keith Ireland after six months in the job.

blog comments powered by Disqus