Lincolnshire health visitors end strike action over pay dispute

Lincolnshire County Council has agreed to pay Lincolnshire health visitors between £2,000 and £6,000 in a one-off transitional payment after upgrading their pay grade from a grade 9 to a grade 10.

The employees, who are members of trade union Unite, called off strike action on 5 December 2019 after their employer agreed the terms.

The employees had been striking since 18 November 2019, protesting the the council’s decision to put them on a grade 9 contract instead of grade 10. The health visitors had been on the lower pay grade since they were transferred from the NHS to Lincolnshire County Council contracts in October 2017.

Unite had argued that because the employees have the same community nurse qualifications, workplace training and were carrying out their role to the professional standards required by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the statutory regulator of health visitors, that their role was equivalent to a grade 10 job role and they should receive the same remuneration.

More than 70 Unite health visitors took part in the strike action; of those, 58 will now be fast tracked to grade 10 contracts with a further 16 Agenda for Change (AfC) staff awaiting confirmation. Thirteen employees have left or taken alternative employment.

Steve Syson, Unite regional officer, said: “Thanks to the tremendous solidarity that our members have shown since this dispute started in the summer, we have achieved a highly significant and welcome victory.

“The health visitors’ determination against what they considered as a gross pay injustice was buttressed by the firm backing from the people of Lincolnshire and from supporters across the UK.”

Paresh Patel, Unite regional secretary for the East Midlands, said: “I think that a number of factors contributed to this positive outcome, including the fact that the council was, and even now, is continuing to lose highly skilled health visitors at the rate of knots, as our members are offered alternative roles elsewhere in recognition of their experience.

“There was also the stark realisation by council bosses that our members were prepared to take further strike action on top of what they had already taken in the summer, after a second ballot confirmed they were prepared to continue on with further industrial action.

“This victory should be seen in the context of a broader campaign for a fully-resourced health visiting service across England; that fight will continue across the country in 2020.”

Heather Sandy, interim director of education at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “The council is pleased that Unite are considering accepting the offer we put to them early this year. Since October, health visitors have been able to go through the council’s career progression scheme, which we have consistently said would offer them competitive terms and conditions and accounts for the vast majority of the uplift they will receive.  We are pleased that the dispute is nearing completion.”