Lincolnshire County Council health visitors continue industrial action in pay dispute


Health visitors, trained nurses who attend patients at home, employed by Lincolnshire County Council and who are members of the trade union Unite, are hosting demonstrations over the next three days, in relation to an ongoing pay dispute.

The demonstrations are to take place today (Wednesday 7 August 2019) at Marshall’s Yard, Gainsborough, tomorrow (Thursday 8 August 2019) at the council’s offices in Newland, Lincoln and on Friday 9 August 2019 in Louth. The demonstrations will also include marches through local towns.

Unite has also announced new dates for strike action, with 48-hour strikes planned for 15 and 16 August 2019 and 19 and 20 August 2019. This follows on from industrial action that took place in July 2019.

The majority (84%) of health visitors at Lincolnshire County Council voted for strike action.

The dispute regards 58 health visitors who have been transferred from the NHS Agenda for Change pay scale, to instead be paid under the local authority wage rate. Unite has stated that, although Lincolnshire County Council staff and NHS employees have both received pay awards, these health visitors have not.

The trade union has argued that its health visitor members employed by Lincolnshire County Council have lost more than £2,000 a year since being transferred from the NHS to the council in October 2017.

Talks in conjunction with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) have so far proved unsuccessful in resolving the dispute.

Steve Syson, regional officer at Unite, said: “Our members have had tremendous support in their local communities by a public that recognises the important work they do for families and children throughout Lincolnshire.

“However, they have been met by a brick wall in the form of a council that remains intransigent, despite three meetings under the auspices of the conciliation service Acas. The attitude of the council is immoral, as it is denying our members legitimate pay rises.

“The council has proffered 30 grade 10 jobs, which they have conjured out of nowhere, that may ensure this pay increase. But these contracts are shrouded in secrecy, so we don’t know what would be required from our members; it could mean a long-term erosion of employment [conditions]. Also, these contracts are not enough to cover all of our 58 members.

“Unite remains open for constructive dialogue with the council 24/7, but until pay parity is guaranteed for all health visitors employed by the county council, our campaign for pay justice will continue.”

Heather Sandy, interim director for education at Lincolnshire County Council, added: “Following requests from the Unite union, the council has continued to engage in talks overseen by Acas to try to resolve the current dispute.

“Unite represent approximately one third of our health visiting workforce and recent talks have been constructive. The council are considering some suggestions discussed within the meetings with the aim of reaching agreement with the union, but we remain committed to moving ahead with career progression plans for our health visitor workforce.

“We value the professionalism and work of our health visitors and the support they provide to Lincolnshire families and have always been keen to avoid strike action. The council will now implement a career and pay progression scheme which would mean health visitors will be offered salaries beyond those available in the NHS. For those at the higher end of these salaries, evidence of their competencies to work at that senior level will be required.

“We continue to have plans in place to cover absences, particularly in the most vulnerable areas such as safeguarding, primary birth visits and families with the highest levels of need. No-one will be left without support.”