NHS workers at Royal Bolton Hospital could be set to join staff all over the country in taking strike action.
This comes with nurses, paramedics, midwives, cleaners, security guards and occupational therapists all now being balloted on whether or not to strike over pay and conditions.
Jayne Clarke, acting branch secretary for Bolton Unison which represents around 6,000 members at Bolton Council and other services gave her full backing to the health workers.
She said: “We fully support our NHS colleagues in their fight to secure improved pay.
“After 12 years of Conservative austerity and public sector pay freezes people have had enough.
“It’s an absolute disgrace that in the 21st century we have NHS workers relying on food banks.
“Politicians clapping their hands doesn’t pay the bills.
“What public service workers need is the money to cover rising living costs and keep a roof over their heads.
“The new prime minister, Rishi Sunak and his cabinet colleagues need to get that message”.
Bolton South East MP Yasmin Qureshi, whose constituency includes the Minerva Road hospital and the homes of many of its workers, says this shows how desperate many staff have become.
Ms Qureshi said: “NHS staff balloting to strike shows the impact of 12 years of Conservative managed decline in our health system.
“People are turning to industrial action to get a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s pay.
“The Labour Party and I are clear, we respect the right to strike but our goal is to be in government resolving these issues directly and ensuring our workforce are properly rewarded and our public services run properly, in the interests of working people.”
According to officials from public sector union Unison, health workers in Bolton have long been under pressure with morale having been hit hard by continued overwork and low pay in the wake of the pandemic.
A survey of Bolton NHS Foundation Trust staff released last April showed that just under 40 per cent felt ‘burnt out’ by their work while 44 per cent agreed that their work could be ‘emotionally exhausting.’
A the time only around 30 per cent of workers at the trust reported having enough staff and only around half believed that had enough resources.
Around 43 per cent say on average they work more than five hours of unpaid overtime a week.
In response to conditions like these, Bolton workers will join 350,000 Unison members in all at more than 250 health trusts around England and Wales in voting on strike action.
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Striking is the last thing dedicated health workers want to do, but with services in such a dire state, and staff struggling to deliver for patients with fewer colleagues than ever, many feel like the end of the road has been reached.
“The NHS is losing experienced staff at alarming rates.
“Health workers are leaving for work that pays better and doesn’t take such a toll on them and their families.
“If this continues, the health service will never conquer the backlog and treat the millions desperately awaiting care.
“It feels like the NHS is in the last chance saloon, but a vote for industrial action might be the jolt that convinces ministers to make the NHS the priority they say it is.”
ALSO READ: Nearly 7 in 8 Bolton NHS staff say work is ’emotionally exhausting’
ALSO READ: ‘Backbone’ of Royal Bolton facing staff morale crisis over low pay
But the government says it has worked to improve pay and has warned about the potential impact on patients.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are giving over one million NHS workers a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year, as recommended by the independent NHS Pay Review Body, on top of three per cent last year when pay was frozen in the wider public sector.
“Industrial action is a matter for unions, and we urge them to carefully consider the potential impacts on patients.”
The Unison ballot will close on November 25 in England and Wales with results to be declared soon after.