The government will face widespread industrial action by health workers if it launches an attack on NHS pay and the Agenda for Change agreement, the general secretary of Unison said today.
Speaking at the union’s health conference in Brighton, Dave Prentis told 800 delegates it had a £20m fighting fund to help its branches across the UK campaign against government proposals.
Mr Prentis said the past two years of the coalition government had seen the public sector, including the NHS, come under “wave after wave of attacks” from ministers.
He claimed the health service was facing what he described as a “fundamental attack” and issued a warning to health secretary Andrew Lansley.
Mr Prentis said the union would move to industrial action if the government pushed to reduce pay or move away from Agenda for Change.
The Department of Health supports a move to more regionally set pay, with new high cost zones extending beyond London. In evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body, published earlier this month, it suggested holding down pay in some areas in order to facilitate the introduction of the new higher pay zones.
Many NHS staff are already facing a two year pay freeze and pay limited to one per cent in 2013-14.
Mr Prentis said: “We will not sit back and allow Andrew Lansley to destroy our national pay agreement.
“If he tries to undermine Agenda for Change, if he tries to reduce the pay of our members who live and work in poorer communities, if the unjust and unfair pay freeze does not end – we will make our stand.
“If they come for our pay we will be ready, prepared and if we need to, we will move to industrial action to protect everything that is right then we will do it. We will do it and we will win.”
Mr Prentis also accused the Conservatives of not valuing the NHS and said private sector firms valued the “fat profits” they could make from a system “designed to save lives”.
Labour’s health spokesman Andy Burnham is due to speak at the conference later today.
Mr Prentis praised Andy Burnham’s opposition to the Health and Social Care Bill. But he added: “I also remember it was Labour who built the bridges over which the Tories walked and we will never forget that.
“If Labour is ever returned to power we expect they will, they must, repeal this pernicious act. If they don’t do it conference, we will never forget.”