LONDON, October 28 /PRNewswire/ --

LONDON, October 28 /PRNewswire/ --

- Health Workers Urged to Vote 'YES' for Industrial Action

The NHS ballot calling for industrial action on the 'derisory' three-year pay deal, organised by Unite the Union, starts today (Tuesday, 28 October).

A total of 100,000 ballot papers will be landing on the doormats of Unite members, working in the NHS, from this morning. The ballot closes on Wednesday, 12 November.

Unite is asking its members whether they are prepared to take industrial action, including strike action in protest at the deal imposed unilaterally on the NHS workforce by ministers.

The three year package is worth half the current rate of inflation, which this month broke through the 5% barrier.

Unite's National Officer for Health, David Fleming said: I appreciate that we are living through very difficult economic times, but that is no excuse for dedicated and hard working NHS staff to be penalised by derisory pay awards as a result.

Most reputable economists agree that public sector pay is not the engine of inflation, so ministers can't use that argument to batten down the hatches with unreasonable pay awards, at a time when household bills are going through the roof.

We are expecting a high turn-out from our members. After the ballot closes, there will be a 28-day 'window' to take the action that the membership has voted for.

David Fleming said that emergency cover would be maintained throughout any action and that patient safety would not be jeopardised.

Ideally, we would much prefer for ministers to enter into meaningful and realistic negotiations with the staff side unions. We have already written to Health Secretary, Alan Johnson and his counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland asking for such talks. Unite's door is always open for dialogue.

Unite's ballot is underpinned by a 95% rejection by its members of the government's three-year pay deal, worth in total 7.99%. It is further reinforced by a 75% vote in favour of an industrial action ballot.

Notes to news editors:

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) jumped to 5.2% in September - a 16-year high. The Retail Price Index (RPI) - the most familiar domestic measure of inflation in the UK- also rose to 5.0% from 4.8%. The RPI takes into account a wider range of indices. Therefore, the 2.75% pay rise paid to NHS members this year (2008/9) is a pay cut.

For further information, please ring: Karen Reay, National Officer, Health, Unite +44(0)7798-531-004; David Fleming, National Officer, Health, Unite +44(0)7798-531013; Shaun Noble, Communications Officer +44(0)20-7420-8951 (direct line), +44(0)7768-693-940 (mobile)