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17 May 2012
A total of 3,500 Unite reps in the health service are being surveyed on whether NHS employers are applying Bank Holiday pay and time-off in lieu arrangements for the Diamond Jubilee.
Unite, the largest union in the country, is also urging the Department of Health to change its advice to NHS trusts in England, so that thousands of NHS employees will be able to fully enjoy the Diamond Jubilee on Tuesday, 5 June.
Unite's survey of its reps across the UK is designed to discover which trusts will be regarding 5 June as a normal working day, with staff not being paid the public holiday rates – and will then 'name-and shame' them.
The Department of Health's advice to NHS employers is that it was up to local managers to make the decision about time-off and pay for the Diamond Jubilee – now less than three weeks away.
Unite's move follows the union's letter to the Queen on behalf of its 100,000 members in the health service on this issue.
In a letter to the health minister responsible, Simon Burns, Unite's head of health, Rachael Maskell said: “Your government announced an additional day for a bank holiday for 5 June 2012.
“Unite members across the NHS believe that it is inconsistent for the government to then allow public sector employers in the NHS to treat this additional bank holiday as optional, as a normal working day, especially when other public sector employers will be recognising 5 June 2012 as a bank holiday.
“It is illogical and inconsistent of this government not to give clear guidance to public sector employers ………and ensure that its public servants are treated equitably. This can only be seen as a further attack on NHS staff.”
Rachael Maskell said that women, in particular, would be hit as they would have to bear additional childcare costs.
Commenting on the letter, Rachael Maskell said: “We have written to Simon Burns as a matter of urgency to see if the minister will change his department's advice to those trusts in England which are not honouring the spirit and letter of the government's decision to declare 5 June as a public holiday.
“To gauge the true extent of the mean-spiritedness of NHS employers we have launched a survey of some 3,500 Unite reps in the four countries of the UK. We will 'name-and-shame' the employers who are backsliding on this.”
A letter to Unite from Buckingham Palace said that the Queen “has taken careful note of the concern you express regarding the possibility that some Unite Health workers may not be allowed to take Tuesday 5th June as a public holiday”.
The Palace states that this is a government decision and “not matter in which The Queen would intervene”. However, the letter has been passed to Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley “so he may…….consider the points you raise”.
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, NHS employers have decreed that staff will be get an extra's day holiday, but the pay will be at the normal rates.
Unite has said that the Diamond Jubilee was taking place against a backcloth where more than one million NHS employees had taken serious cuts to their pay in real terms; were being forced to pay more for their pensions and receive less on retirement; and experiencing an erosion of terms and conditions, as the health service was being softened up for privatisation.
Unite has 100,000 members in the health sector.
Unite is Britain and Ireland's largest trade union with 1.5 million members working in all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.