A number of health visitors in Lincolnshire started a month-long strike yesterday over what they describe as the council’s ‘divide and rule’ policy over future job roles.
The public sector union Unite and Lincolnshire County Council are currently in discussions, under the auspices of the conciliation service Acas, over health visitor contracts.
The local authority argues that some health visitors should receive a grade nine contract whereas others should be in the tenth pay grade. Unite characterises this approach as ‘divide and rule’.
The dispute began in July and since then 32 days have been lost to strike action.
Out of the 76 Unite members who were entitled to vote for the month-long strike, 21 of them did not. Thirty seven out of the remaining 55 voted for industrial action and 11 took part on the first day.
Lincolnshire County Council offered health visitors 30 grade 10 roles after the industrial action began in July and then offered a further 43 after the announcement of the month-long strike was made.
Unite, however, argued that this was ‘unacceptable’ because the continuance of grade nine contracts left the two-tier pay system in place.
‘We fundamentally disagree with the council that this lower paid role is appropriate. Therefore, in tandem with the strike action, we are appealing the grade nine job description through the appeals procedure in the job evaluation scheme,’ said Unite regional officer Steve Syson.
Heather Sandy, interim director of education at the county council, said she was ‘disappointed’ by the decision to strike.
‘The council's career progression scheme, which opened in October, means no staff member has to remain on a static salary – all can move on in their careers and be financially rewarded beyond that available in the NHS,’ she said.
‘Unite's suggestion that all health visitors should have a starting salary £3500 above their colleagues in the health service is financially unsustainable and would have serious implications for bordering NHS service recruitment.’