Health workers are angry. In March it was announced that 600,000 NHS employees would get no cost of living pay rise on 1 April.
Unite is holding a consultative ballot of the 100,000 members working in the NHS in England and Northern Ireland.
The workers are being asked whether they want to take action as a result of their pay offer. The ballot will close on Friday 30 May.
Depending on the outcome, Unite will proceed to a full industrial action ballot. This would open in June, with industrial action commencing the following month across the NHS.
The ConDem decision to reject the recommendation of 1% for all workers by the Pay Review Board meant that only those at the top of their band pay received the 1% increase in April.
An estimated 50% of the 1.3 million NHS workforce will have to rely on their annual incremental increase, which is not necessarily guaranteed.
Unite stresses that the incremental increases are in recognition of increased knowledge and skills as staff progress in their careers, with additional performance criteria to be met – and are not part of the annual pay rise process.
Unite’s health service members in Wales have already been consulted on the pay issue and, more generally, their terms and conditions and have by more than 90% rejected the pay offer.
The union will not be balloting its members in Scotland where the devolved government has agreed to pay the 1% pay rise to all staff as recommended by the independent Pay Review Body (PRB). However, members in Scotland will be joining the campaign over how pay is determined in the future, and how long term cuts in NHS pay can be redressed.
Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: “At a very positive meeting of the national health sector committee, it was decided that the strength of feeling by our members demanded a consultative ballot at what is a very insulting ‘divide and rule’ pay offer.
“We will be urging our members for a decisive mandate to move to the next stage of a full industrial ballot with the prospect of industrial action in July.
“July is the month that marks the 66th anniversary of the birth of the NHS, whose ethos is being comprehensively undermined by ministers intent on privatising the health service as fast possible by the time of next year’s general election.
“Our members are taking this action reluctantly and with a heavy heart, but they feel they have no choice given the contempt that health secretary Jeremy Hunt has shown to the dedicated NHS workforce.”
Pat Harrington commented: "Health workers don't want to strike. They care about patients. That's one of the reasons they work in the sector but they also need fair pay."