Union representing hospital pharmacists hopes strike will force government to rethink pay deal

The protests are against the government’s decision to reject the 1% across-the-board rise recommended by the independent pay review body.

NHS staff take part in four-hour walk out strike over pay dispute

The trade union that represents hospital pharmacists says it hopes the UK government will reconsider the terms of the 2014–2015 pay deal after the NHS faced its first national strike over pay in more than 30 years.

As four hours of industrial action drew to a close at 11am on 13 October 2014, it was unclear how many members of the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists — which is part of the public sector union Unite — took part.

Dave Thornton, president of the Guild, hopes the strike in England and Northern Ireland, which is being followed by a week of work-to-rule, will put pressure on the government to think again about this year’s pay offer.

Based at Aintree University Hospital, Liverpool, he was working normally because he runs a clinic on Monday mornings.

“I was not prepared to have the potential impact on patients that cancelling the clinic would have had,” he said. “Other people are taking strike action within my department but most pharmacists are not. I think a lot of pharmacists will feel the same as me — pharmacists are not known for going on strike.”

Thornton added that individual members of the union have a right to choose whether they want to take part in industrial action.

Unite is one of six trade unions — including the Royal College of Midwives and the British Association of Occupational Therapists — taking industrial action.

The protests are against the government’s decision to reject the 1% across-the-board rise recommended by the independent pay review body. The government’s offer was a 1% non-consolidated rise, but only for staff at the top of their pay scales who would not be eligible for an automatic incremental rise. As the award is non-consolidated, pay will revert to the April 2013 level in March 2016.

In a statement, the Department of Health said it was “disappointed” that staff were taking industrial action. “NHS staff are our greatest asset, and we’ve increased the NHS budget to pay for over 12,500 more clinical staff since 2010,” it said. “We cannot afford a pay rise in addition to increments — which disproportionately reward the highest earners — without risking frontline jobs.” 

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Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 18 October 2014, Vol 293, No 7832;293(7832):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2014.20066789