Unison, Unite and RCN stewards in Oxfordshire Health NHS Trust have launched a pertition calling for the trust to reconsider the decision to introduce "cook chill" catering system in Oxfordshire's community hospitals.
Patient groups have already raised concern about the impact the reduction in quality in cook chill food will have on patient's nutritional intake. There is already evidence that patients in areas that have already have cook chill vote with their feet and order in food in preference to the hospital food provided if they can afford it. The use of take away food puts patients at risk of poor nutrition and loss of control over food safety. The problem is of such significance that the trust has had to bring in a policy whereby nursing staff have the additional work of policing food outlets patients order in from and performing safety checks on the food when it is delivered.
Poorly nuitritioned patients can take longer to recover potentially raising costs of hospital stays. Impoverishing staff through unemployment is likely to impact negatively on the well being of staff, as is the increased use of low paid staff in cook chill companies, with associated increased demands on the NHS. The requirement for nurses to monitor take-away food distracts them from other aspects of care.
All this raises the spectre of the "cook chill" project being a false economy, driven by the government demand for cuts rather than any joined up thinking about the real costs of healthcare of the population the trust is supposed to be serving.
Oxfordshire UNISON Health branch is calling on members to support a demonstration against the racist and fascist EDL holding a national march in Oxford on Saturday 4th April. Oxford residents opposed to racism and fascism will be assembling for a peaceful protest in Bonn Square from 12 noon to show that the majority reject the EDL's racist lies as they try and scapegoat minorities, particular Muslims, for problems in society. Facebook event
Local trade unions, including Oxfordshire Unison health branch, plus over 300 people have signed an open letter condemning the decision by the English Defence League to call a national demonstration in Oxford following the jailing of a group of men for sexual exploitation of children. Local councillors, trade union activists, and residents and students in Oxford are included in those who accuse the EDL of exploiting the suffering of these victims of abuse in an attempt to stir up race hatred against the Muslim community and to build there fascist organisation here.
Stand Up To Racism
• Stop the scapegoating of immigrants
• No to Islamophobia
• Yes to diversity
• No to anti-Semitism
Called by Stand up to Racism - Backed by Unison, Unite, PCS and UAF
March 21st - national demonstration
Far right and fascist organisations are gaining support across Europe including in Britain by using arguments that wrongly blame immigrants for the fall in living standards, economic problems and austerity. Just this weekend there was a large scale racist demonstration in Newcastle organised by PERGIDA. It was only the presence of thousands of trade union members and anti-racists that prevented the racist arguments winning the the day.
In the UK there is a tidal wave of Islamophobia and racism coming from the top of society—and it will worsen during the election campaign—but this has produced a strong anti-racist reaction from a significant number of people.
It is vital we demonstrate against attempts by the rich and powerful to divide and rule us. We need unity against austerity.
Last night's branch meeting voted unanimously to recommend branch members to vote to reject the latest pay offer believing that it is completely inadequate and that the government can be pushed to offer a better settlement by further strike action.
Ballot papers are starting to arrive and members are urged to return them straight away with a vote to reject.
The meeting discussed how it was the prospect of escalating action that forced the government to ask for talks and make the slightly improved offer in the hope of silencing the anger over years of pay cuts and cuts in the NHS.
The meeting criticised the offer for falling far short of Unison's aims of 1% consolidated pay rise for 2014/2015 and an above inflation pay rise for 2015/2016, while also opening the door to government sought reforms of the Agenda for Change pay scheme as negotiations on this are part of the pay offer.
The government has already applied for cuts in unsocial hours, and has previously indicated it wants to abolish incremental pay rises. The introduction of incremental freeze for higher bands in the pay offer sets a precedent for future negotiations, and should be rejected.
If the offer is accepted most staff will get only 1% over 2 years, though wages have fallen behind prices by at least 10%. The fact that no new money is being made available speaks volumes about the government’s attitude towards NHS pay - they are prepared to rob one set of NHS workers to buy the rest of us off, but won't tackle tax evasion that could raise more than enough money to fund the NHS.
The branch meeting reflected discussions between stewards and members across Oxfordshire trusts where the majority opinion expressed is that the offer does not address the issue of recent pay cuts and low pay, and opens the door to further cuts.
A delegate to the Women's and also the Black Members conference reported wide spread dissatisfaction on the conference floors at Unison Head of Health Christine MCAnea's announcement that the offer was "the best that could be got through negotiations". Our delegate reported that members could not understand why the action had been called off for such a poor offer when there was growing support for the strikes.
Even those set to benefit most from the pay offer have expressed the opinion that the deal should be rejected as "pathetic". Press headlines have focused on the lowest paid getting 5%; however this would apply to just 3,000 staff in England.
As the general election approaches the government is increasingly vulnerable to pressure. The last thing it wants is disruption drawing attention to the scale of dissatisfaction with the state of NHS pay and crisis in the NHS. We have the best opportunity in years to win real changes - a strong vote to reject is essential to making the most of this opportunity.
Branch meeting on Pay
6pm Tuesday 17th Feb
McInness Room, Warneford Hospital - free parking
This meeting is open to all members and gives the opportunity to discuss the latest pay offer, and decide whether the branch will recommend whether to accept or reject the offer in the forthcoming ballot.
Christina MCAnea, Head of Health in Unison, has admitted "this isn't a great offer", and many members have asked the question as to why the action was suspended when the strikes had forced the government to enter talks and make an offer. There is also concern that part of the offer includes a review of other aspectgs of Agenda for Change at a time the government has appplied for cuts in unsocial hours payments.
Full details of the offer can be seen online here
The meeting will also give updates on the living wage campaign and look at the possibility of mounting a campaign for Oxford weighting to help staff deal with the high cost of living in Oxfordshire.
Pensions choice 2 - Oxford based briefings and 1:1 financial advice for Unison members
The OUHT Joint Union Committee is currently working with Lighthouse Financial Advisors to run a number of lunchtime sessions at the main OUH sites. These sessions are open to members in OUHT, OHFT and SHFT but if you want to take advantage of one to one follow up sessions you will need to bring your union membership card along and book a brief follow up meeting. Members are entitled to a free half hour advice session.
In addition the Oxford University Hospitals Trust is in the process of putting together a “Retire and Return” policy.
We understand the main feature of this will be the possibility of agreeing prior to retirement to return in a similar role on a fixed term contract.
Should this be agreed there will be a varying impact on pensions depending on membership of the different NHS schemes.
Faced with a 12 hour strike the government approached the unions to make an offer in return for the strike being called off. This shows the power the two previous strikes had to force the government to talk when it previously had refused and imposed a pay freeze for most NHS staff for this year and next. Members will now be balloted as to whether they accept or reject the government's offer.
Intitial reactions from branch members has been to question the union leadership calling off the action. Many report the mood for the strike being good and believe the planned strikes could have forced the government to make greater concessions.
The branch is in the process of organising a branch meeting to allow members to discuss the offer and next steps in the pay campaign, including whether to launch a campaign for a cost of living supplement for all staff living in Oxfordshire.
The pay offer ony offers a very small rises for the lowest paid - at the expense of highest pay bands (detail at end with what the new payscale would look like if accepted). However there is nothing to address the substantial losses staff have suffered bearing the brunt of government imposed austerity. For the majority of staff there is still no pay rise this year, and for those who got the 1% consolidated, they will lose it at the end of the year, so in effect their pay will be the same next year if this deal is accepted - this will affect around 30% of NHS staff. For most staff the what is on offer the equivalent of a paltry 1% increase for the 2 years 2104-2016. The offer also serves the purpose of dividing the opposition to the government policy of keeping NHS wages depressed.