Lincolnshire health visitors suspend month-long strike in 'victory' over pay dispute

Health visitors in Lincolnshire have suspended a planned month-long strike after council bosses agreed to raise workers' salaries.

Lincolnshire Health Visitors also took strike action in the summer. Picture: Unite the Union
Lincolnshire Health Visitors also took strike action in the summer. Picture: Unite the Union

Unite the Union members walked out on 18 November in objection to the county council's insistence on different contracts for grade 9 and grade 10 health visitors transferring from Agenda for Change (AfC) terms under the NHS to council terms.

In a statement released today, Unite bosses said 58 of 70 union members would be upgraded to a grade 10.

Health visitors are also expected to receive between £2,000 and £6,000 in a one-off transitional payment, the union said.

A further 16 members of AfC staff are awaiting confirmation of an upgrade and around 13 have left or are planning to leave to take up alternative roles within nursing, it added.

“[This] leaves a handful of relatively new health visitors on grade 9,” a statement from the Union said.

The dispute centred on Unite's contention that its 70 members in Lincolnshire have lost more than £2,000 a year since they were transferred in October 2017.

It argued that since all health visitors have the same community nurse qualifications their role is equivalent to a grade 10 post and they are entitled to be paid the same rate.

Unite vowed to work to have anyone still classed as grade 9 changed to grade 10 as soon as possible.   

The latest strike action followed 32 days of stoppages, with the loss of around 450 shifts, taken by health visitors across the county since July.

Unite regional officer Steve Syson said: “Thanks to the tremendous solidarity that our members have shown since this dispute started in the summer, we have achieved a highly significant and welcome victory.

“The health visitors’ determination against what they considered as a gross pay injustice was buttressed by the firm backing from the people of Lincolnshire and from supporters across the UK.”

Unite regional secretary for the East Midlands Paresh Patel added: “I think that a number of factors contributed to this positive outcome, including the fact that the council was, and even now, is continuing to lose highly skilled health visitors at the rate of knots, as our members are offered alternative roles elsewhere in recognition of their experience.

“This victory should be seen in the context of a broader campaign for a fully-resourced health visiting service across England – that fight will continue across the country in 2020.”

Heather Sandy, interim director of education at Lincolnshire County Council, said: "The council is pleased that Unite are considering accepting the offer we put to them early this year. 

"Since October, health visitors have been able to go through the council's career progression scheme, which we have consistently said would offer them competitive terms and conditions and accounts for the vast majority of the uplift they will receive.  We are pleased that the dispute is nearing completion."

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