Health visitors to strike for six days

Lincolnshire health visitors will strike for six days in July over ‘no pay rises’ and erosion of professional standards.

As previously reported, over 50 health visitors employed by Lincolnshire County Council will take action in what is believed to be an unprecedented move.

After a ballot which closed on Thursday, June 27, Unite announced that 58 health visitors voted by an 84% majority to strike.

Britain and Ireland’s largest union said that a 48 hour stoppage will start on July 15. There will be 24 hour strikes on July 19 and 22 before a 48 strike on July 25. All strikes will start at 12.01am.

It is believed to be the first time that the county’s health visitors will have taken strike action in defence of their pay and professional standards. However, the county council said it has plans in place to cover absences should the strikes go ahead.

Unite regional officer Steve Dyson said: “It is unprecedented for the health visitors in Lincolnshire to vote for strike action – the reasons being the council’s refusal to give them a pay rise since 2017 and concerns that their professional standards are being seriously eroded by a penny pinching employer.

“The demise in numbers means that those left have excessive caseloads and more serious safeguarding cases to deal with.

“At a time when there is the lowest number of heath visitors in England since September 2012, it is outrageous that the council seems determined to freeze the incomes of the health visitors and undermine their professional standards.”

Unite calculates that its Lincolnshire health visitors members have lost more than £2,000 a year since they were transferred from the NHS to the council in October 2017.

To enable health visitors to continue to receive inflationary increases in their salaries all were offered an opportunity to transfer the county council terms and conditions whilst retaining their NHS pension.

However, the strike comes as controversy continues over the £292,000 pay off to the former council chief executive Keith Ireland for less than six months work.

Steve added: “Our members are very reluctant to strike as they know the impact it will have on Lincolnshire’s families, many of them in vulnerable circumstances.

“But they are faced with a county council more concerned with giving its former chief executive Keith Ireland a scandalous £292,000 pay off for a mere six months work than paying its own health visitors the rate for the job – we have a local authority with a skewed sense of priorities.

“I wrote to the council in a bid to settle this dispute, but, as yet, I have not had the courtesy of a reply. However, Unite’s door remains open for constructive talks 24/7 for the benefit of Lincolnshire families.”

County council response

Interim Director of Education at Lincolnshire County Council, Heather Sandy, said: “Lincolnshire County Council highly values the role of health visitors as part of our workforce. They are an essential part of children services and provide valuable advice, support and guidance to families.

“We have always been prepared to sit round the table with Unite and will continue to be available for further talks so we can resolve the issue as soon as possible.

“We understand that 44 of our 116-strong team of health visitors have voted to say they are prepared to take strike action following the ballot from Unite regarding their pay. This is less than a third of our workforce for Children’s Public Health services.

“We wish to reassure the public that if these strikes go ahead, we have plans in place to cover absences, particularly in the most vulnerable areas such as safeguarding and primary birth visits. No-one will be left without support.”