Lincolnshire health visitors approve more strike action

Health visitors locked in an ongoing pay dispute with Lincolnshire County Council over its "unscrupulous" stance over future job roles have voted to take further strike action, union bosses have said.

A statement issued by Unite said more than 70 health visitors in the county agreed to take the action on dates to be announced. 

It said 67 per cent of voters were in favour of escalating the dispute which has already seen 32 days of stoppages, with the loss of around 450 shifts, since July. 

Health visitors claim they have lost more than £2,000 a year in earnings since being transferred under Agenda for Change terms from the NHS to county council control in 2017.

They are also objecting to the county council's insistence on different contracts for grade 9 and grade 10 health visitors.

Unite said the new mandate for industrial action had come not only from those health visitors who had been denied pay rises by the council since October 2017, but also those on lower grade 9 and higher grade 10.

The union is arguing that since all health visitors have the same community nurse qualifications, their role is equivalent to a grade 10 job role and pay levels should be the same accordingly.

Unite regional officer Steve Syson said new strike dates would be announced soon but there was a "real window of opportunity" for the county council to enter into talks to resolve the dispute for the benefit of its members and families in Lincolnshire.

"Our members have voted for strike action by a large majority in this dispute which has seen the county council bosses adopt an unscrupulous ‘divide and rule' stance over future job roles," he said.

Syson said action needed to be taken to stem the number of "fed-up" health visitors leaving the county council for alternative employment.

"Our case is compelling and that is all health visitors have had the same community nurse qualifications and workplace training and therefore, 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," he added.

Earlier this month, Unite boss Len McCluskey voiced his support for the campaign and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has previously backed the health workers.

Paresh Patel, Unite's East Midlands regional secretary, said Lincolnshire's health visitors were "bravely leading the fight" for the "crisis-hit profession" in England to be given the resources it needed to carry out its role in helping families.

Unite said there had been a 31 per cent drop in health visitor numbers since 2015.

Figures released showed there were 7,026 health visitors in England in June this year compared with a peak of 10,309 in October 2015.

The union represents 76 of the 126 health visitors employed by the county council.

Lincolnshire County Council has been approached for comment.

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