Scots NHS Worker Unable To Heat Home In Cost Of Living Crisis As Strike Action Looms

Scots NHS Worker Unable To Heat Home In Cost Of Living Crisis As Strike Action Looms

Sean Robertson works in a hospital lab dealing with Covid tests among other duties.

One of Scotland’s major health unions has launched a consultative ballot over pay which could lead to strike action.

The GMB is calling for members to reject the Scottish Government’s five per cent pay offer in the ballot which is launched today and runs until August 5.

Sean Robertson works in a hospital lab dealing with Covid tests among other duties.

But when he finishes this vital work every day, he has to buy own-brand labels for his dinner and put on an extra jumper to keep warm rather than the heating as the cost of living crisis has left him facing real hardship.

Sean, 42, co-parents his 14-year-old son with his former partner, a nurse, and for both, trying to run a home and meet his needs is a challenge.

Sean earns less than £24,000 a year and said: “It was a struggle before the pandemic and before the increased food and fuel costs and rent going up.”

He admitted: “It is difficult to cope. It is heartbreaking having to say ‘no’ to my son.

Labour say staff deserve a fair pay offer after the last two years
Labour say staff deserve a fair pay offer after the last two years

“I live 40 miles from Raigmore Hospital in Inverness where I work and my petrol has doubled in price. I want to move to Inverness but I can’t afford the rent there.

“By the time I pay my bills, there is no money left. I know some people who are staying on at work to avoid having to put the heating on at home

“During the pandemic, we had politicians saying they supported us, clapping for us, but support by finding money to pay us is just not there. Yet there is always money to bail out big business”

Sean is calling for an inflation and real terms pay rise and believes 13 per cent would be “a start” to reduce the real terms pay losses workers have suffered since 2008.

He believes without this rise hospitals will continue to haemorrhage staff and, with a large proportion of vacancies already unfilled, it could signal the end of the NHS as we know it.

Frontline workers are facing a real-terms pay cut as inflation is predicted to continue to rise this year
Frontline workers are facing a real-terms pay cut as inflation is predicted to continue to rise this year

Sean said he would be voting against acceptance of the pay deal and would be urging his colleagues to do likewise.

And he pledged to take any industrial action necessary to force the government to come up with a better pay deal.

If members overwhelmingly vote to reject the pay offer, the union is expected to launch a further ballot on industrial action if there is no increased offer from the Scottish Government.

The ballot of more than 8000 members will include nurses, porters, cleaners, hospital technicians, radiographers, maintenance, ambulance workers and NHS 24 among others.

Union sources say the entire membership are unlikely to take part in a complete walk out in order to provide “life and limb cover” and to maintain “the sustainability of frontline emergency service delivery”.

The Record understands any future action would be targeted and prior to any potential strikes, action such as an overtime ban or work to rule may be taken which would severely cripple services already under pressure because of a lack of staff, and which already rely on overtime to operate adequately.

The GMB is calling for members to reject the Scottish Government’s five per cent pay offer
The GMB is calling for members to reject the Scottish Government’s five per cent pay offer

The members will be asked: “Do you accept or reject the pay offer of five per cent?”

The union says with inflation currently at 9.1 per cent, and forecast to rise into double figures later this year, it means five per cent equals a significant real-terms pay cut.

And there is a mood of anger among members who believe wages have been decimated by below inflation pay rises in recent years. GMB Scotland Organiser Karen Leonard said: “The offer is a significant real-terms pay cut for frontline staff in the grip of the biggest cost of living crisis in 40 years and the flat rate percentage increase across the board means the highest earners will get the biggest cash rises.

“It won’t tackle soaring inflation and eye-watering energy bills for many staff and, frankly, the prospect of an HR manager who does not deliver care getting more cash in their pocket than a nurse currently earning around £13 an hour is just wrong.

“If we want to recruit and retain the people and skills needed to deliver a safe and sustainable NHS, we must value staff better and explore every measure to avoid the prospect of more NHS employees falling into working poverty.

“A harsh winter lies ahead for the NHS, not just for the services staff deliver but also for their homes and families, yet there is no sense from government that the growing severity of the situation is fully
understood – this is a crisis within a crisis.

“That’s why we are asking our members to reject this pay offer and we are urging the government to get back round the table with unions so we can negotiate a better and fairer deal that confronts the cost-of-living crisis facing these key workers.”

Labour’s health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie commented: “We all rely on the heroic efforts of our NHS staff who have gone above and beyond over the last two years. It’s time for the government to put its money where its mouth is, do right by these workers and deliver a fair pay settlement.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that the GMB is recommending members reject this offer which, if accepted, will be the biggest single year pay rise NHS Agenda for Staff have seen since devolution and will ensure our staff continue to remain the best paid in the UK.”

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