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Unite? Anything but united...


Division and dishonesty are beginning to appear among health trade unions over pay. Some 80 per cent of NHS trade unionists voted to accept the three-year 8.1 per cent deal. Unite, posturing as the largest union in the western hemisphere, rapidly accepted the 2.75 per cent year one offer but in true prima donna style refused the rest.

The union is now campaigning for industrial action to undermine the implemented deal for the other NHS trade unions. This has very little to do with pay in the NHS but everything to do with internal faction fighting within Unite.

Unite, with a minuscule membership in the NHS, has entered into a divisive and cynical exercise aimed solely at poaching other trade unions’ members so that it can position itself as the “Left” trade union in Britain.

Faction fighting within the TGWU and Amicus wings of Unite has now forced their merger to be put on hold for at least six months and has produced – following presentations to the Certification Officer – statutory intervention in the internal affairs of the union. That statutory intervention was brought about by ultra-left candidates and groupings using anti-trade union legislation. So much for principle, so much for the proud Amalgamated Engineering Union’s resistance to the Industrial Relations Act in the 1970s.

All three candidates for General Secretary are outbidding one another to be “Leftie of the Year”. Hence this phoney war around pay in the NHS. Having secured a miserable ballot result for industrial action these armchair revolutionaries have announced a day of action on 3 December across the NHS. Their stunning tactic? They will not use their mobile phones on NHS premises! Who has not noticed the innumerable signs in hospitals asking you not to use your mobile phone as it could endanger patients?

• Meanwhile, the fiasco around pay in local government is descending into farce. After accepting a strategy driven primarily by rhetoric from Unison at national level and then handing over the leadership to the ultra-left to deliver, the 2008 pay campaign has dissolved into tears, blame and sneaking off to ACAS.

After “privately” asking the employers to pay their final 2.5 per cent offer “on account”, everyone looks to going to ACAS for arbitration and mediation to save themselves. In the past such payment on account would have been seen as the employers going over the heads of the unions and enforcing their offer. Outcry would have followed. But not now. What is even more ludicrous is that the same generals are now consulting on next year’s pay claim and next year’s industrial action plan. Meanwhile, the NUT has now decided against further action on teachers’ pay, after a poor ballot result.