Lincolnshire health visitors to strike for whole month

Nina Jacobs
Monday, November 4, 2019

Health visitors will take an "unprecedented" month-long strike action in protest at "divide and rule" plans by Lincolnshire County Council over their future job roles.

A statement issued today by Unite said that more than 70 health visitors would begin industrial action at midnight on 18 November, lasting until 13 December.

The latest action in the escalating dispute follows 32 days of stoppages, with the loss of around 450 shifts, taken by health visitors across the county since July.

They 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.

Unite said its members were also objecting to the county council's insistence on different contracts for grade 9 and grade 10 health visitors.

The union is arguing 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.

Steve Syson, Unite's regional officer, said the decision to hold a month-long strike demonstrated a "deepening crisis" in the county's health visitor service over the council's "divide and rule" stance over future job roles.

Figures released by the union show more than 20 local health visitors have left or are leaving their posts since the dispute started in the summer.

"Now is the time for the council to come to the table to resolve this dispute once and for all before the strike begins. Already the council is haemorrhaging health visitors," said Syson.

Paresh Patel, the union's regional secretary for the East Midlands, said: "This is a crisis entirely of this cash-rich council's making and this month-long strike by health visitors is unprecedented in modern times."

Patel said the union would support its members during the industrial action which reflected "a crisis enveloping the profession" across England which had seen a drop of more than 30 per cent in numbers since 2015.

The union said there were 7,026 health visitors in England in June this year compared with a peak of 10,309 in October 2015.

Syson said in a letter to the county council's interim director of education Heather Sandy he highlighted how relations had broken down as a result of an "artificial separation" of the role.

"The demonstration of a further vote for industrial action shows the ill-feeling within the teams with regards to the career progression scheme and the possibility of getting stuck at the top of a grade 9.

"This would mean a direct pay cut of £4,000 per annum in relation to what a health visitor can earn in the health service, or indeed at other councils," the letter states.

Lincolnshire County Council has been approached for comment.