Thursday, April 27, 2006

Aberdeen Nurses Strike 1924

Aberdeen Nurses' Strike
November 1924

Thie dismissal by the Parish Council of the nurse-superintendent at Oldmill Hospital, Aberdeen, led to a sympathetic strike by 23 of tlie 30 nurses employed there. The nurses
who refused to undertake duty were at once served with a notice ordering them to leave the hospital by mid-day on the following dny (20th November 1924).

They refused to leave the premises until they had been repaid the sum which had been contributed by them for superannuation purposes. The next move by the Parish Council Committee was an application to Court for power to evict the nurses from their quarters at Oldmill.

On Saturday the nurse-superintendent and 23 of the nurses left Oldmill. An effort was made by the hospital sub-committee to induce some of the nurses to resume work, but when they learned that nine of their number, regarded as ringleaders in the strike, would have to go they refused tlie sub-committee's offer. A Board of Health official visited the hospital, but it is understood that he informed the nurses that the Board would not interfere with the jurisdiction of the local authority in dealing with the trouble at the hospital.

NAWU Journal December 1924

Thora Silverthorne NUCO & Spain 1937


Miss Thora Silverthorne now matron of the
International Brigade Hospital on the Madrid front, continues in her good work. The Spanish officials pay the highest tribute to the English nurses in Spain and we arc proud that Miss Silverthorne is a member of N.U.C.O

NUCO Jounal 1937

Normansfield Strike - 4th May 1976

Nurses often faced petty and tyrannical rule by maverick Matron's and Doctor's, often the threat of union action led to improvements, however at Normansfield Hospital, a hospital for the mentally handicapped in Kingston, South London.

Nurses and patients were faced with a very dictatorial regime of the Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Lawlor. When all other methods of bringing problems to management's notice had failed, Nursing members of COHSE, led by Vic Palmer local COHSE steward, walked out on strike.
By 2:30 Dr Lawlor, the consultant psychiatrist was suspended.

While COHSE was attacked at the time for supporting the action of the nurses, the subsequent public enquiry showed an appalling quality of life of the patients and a failure of senior medical, nursing and administrative staff to co-operate with each other.

It was not until the 1990's when the Chief Executive of the UKCC stated "that had she been a nurse at Normansfield during that period, given that all other avenues had been tried, she would have joined the strike in the interest of patient care"

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Rushcliffe - Thora Silverthorne view



NURSES who tried 'vainly In the years of peace to secure reasonable conditions of service, will soon receive a new charter at the hands of a committee presided over by Lord Rushcliffe.

Nurses are now so important a factor in Britain's war economy that I anticipate many of them will be surprised at the far-reaching reforms (which the committee will propose.

Since war broke out the nation has been paying for its failure to provide conditions for nurses, consistent with their contribution to the community. In peace there was a grave shortage of girls willing to accept the hard conditions of a nurse's life. In war, with the greater demands in the hospitals, the shortage has been more acute.

Perhaps, the most damning fact of all has been that. Owing to the absence of agreed conditions of service, Mr. Ernest Bevin, (Minister) who is able to conscript girls for other forms of war work, has been unable to issue regulations to deal with the nurses.

Ten Years Delay

No one can say that the danger of a serious nursing shortage was not known. Ten years ago .a committee set up by The Lancet made a series of proposals tor making nursing more attractive. But nothing was done.

In 1938, an inter-departmental committee set up from the various Government Departments concerned made similar proposals, designed to provide reasonable standards of salary, and to abolish some of the Victorian, restrictions still imposed by many hospitals.

Again, nothing was done

I returned from service with the Spanish Republican Army (Matron in the international Brigade), I tried to organise A Nurses Trade union (National Association of Nurses)- I believed then, as I believe now, that the problem will not finally be solved until nurses organise on a trade union basis in the same way journalists, architects and other professional workers. We considerable progress, and in a number of hospitals where we secured strong membership important concessions were quickly secured.

Shortly afterwards the trades Union Congress issued its Nurses Charter and since we had no intention or desire to compete with existing Trade Union organi-

sations (NUPE) , we merged our association in one of the Unions which sought to organise the nurses.

But the Trade Union Movement has still failed to solve the problem. There are six Trade Unions Inside the T.U.C. and one out- side, all competing for nurses. If they would only get together and agree on a single organisation, appealing to the professional pride as well as the economic needs of the nurses, I believe the problem could be solved.

The Rushcliffe Committee will do a great deal for the nurses, but no section of the workers can afford to rely only on State action. The nurses need their own organisation which can represent them in negotiations and can

guard their interests at all times.

I should like to see the Rushcliffe recommendations as the starting point, to be followed by a country-wide Trade Union campaign to convince the nurses that they must act themselves if they are to secure and retain decent conditions. Such a campaign would also seek to show them that in this way they could make an even greater contribution to the war effort. .

The action of two London hospitals in establishing Joint Consultative Committees in which nurses as well as other sections of the staff are represented could be followed nationally it the nurses were organised.,

Cheap Labour

I hope the Rushcliffe Committee will realise that nurses, in the year 1943, cannot be treated like the young Victorian-women of Florence Nightingale's day. Some of the restrictions on nurses are just too silly for words, particularly when one realises that girls in war Industry and the Services are bearing a very consider able part of the war effort

It is to be wondered at that girls fight shy of nursing when they are not allowed to be out after eleven o'clock, when fully trained nurses, are not allowed to live out, when all sorts of restrictions are imposed on their private lives' Which no employer in any other profession would dare to suggest?

The nurses also have a right to demand proper facilities for training. It is absurd that girls should be expected to attend lectures after long hours' on the wards. Girls who have worked all night cannot absorb highly technical instruction at lectures at eleven in the morning. Yet that is the practice in a number of hospitals.

The training of doctors is strictly supervised. That of nurses is completely haphazard. The General Nursing Council, which Is" responsible for the nurses' training schools, should also have the duty of seeing that the schools give-adequate instruction. At present, the blunt truth is that the hospitals are securing cheap labour from the probationer nurses and giving instruction as, an after thought.

Can be Done

The immediate reforms for the nurses should Include a 96-hour fortnight, with payment for overtime option for all girls to live out arrangements for the nurses' homes to be run on hostel lines; recognition of the right to organise and to hold Trade Union meetings; and abolition of unnecessary restrictions on personal liberty.

To those who say it cannot be done, I would say that for one section of the nursing profession it has been done. Mr. George Gibson (General Secretary of the Mental Health & Institutional Workers Union) has built up an organisation for the workers in the mental hospitals, which has secured conditions That superior to those of the nurses in the general hospitals. What is more important to the nation at the" present time, the members of his Union have been able to play a more effective part in the war effort.


Chair of the Association of Nurses was Nancy Zinkin

article from probably News Chronicle 1943

French Nurses Strike 1988 & 1991


French Nurses Strikes

When the French authorities used tear-gas and water-cannon on a nurses' demonstration last month, injuring several protestors, it served only to enrage further a profession already at the end of its tether.

Nursing in
France is in crisis. Staff shortages, low pay and poor conditions
of work have led to a veritable hemorrhage from the profession.
There are
some 600 000 French nurses but only 280 000 of them are working.
than half have quit nursing for better- paid jobs and the country's health
service desperately needs them back.

In 1988, a French nurses' strike was big news and now staff are back on the streets saying that the concessions they thought they had won three years ago have amounted to nothing.

The public are backing them, with 78% of those questioned in a poll saying nurses were right to go on strike. And nurses staging a day-and-night sit-in outside the Ministry of Health have been overwhelmed by offers of support — not to mention croissants and coffee — from local residents and from passers-by.

The doctors are on their side too. On October 24 the nurses staged Operation Infirmiere Zero — a one-day strike during which, by agreement, doctors
took on nursing duties.
To keep up the pressure, the nurses are staging a
one-hour walkout every day.

They are anxious to point out that their campaign is on behalf of the patients because standards of care have fallen to an all-time low. One nurse quoted in the latest issue of L'Infirmiere, the French nursing magazine, said she had worked in care of the elderly for 11 years, 'but it's not possible to go on like this any longer. In my area, there are two nurses for 110 beds. The only answer is for me to leave the profession.'

Staff shortages and the extra pressures that leads to are the main grievances, but pay is a real source of discontent too. French nurses are on a pay scale with public sector workers and earn between £750 and £820 a month. However, they want recognition that their work carries more responsibility than postal or
refuse workers and so they are asking to come off that scale and boost their earnings to £950 a month.

The profession also wants improved supplements for working unsocial hours and they regard the £6 extra they are paid for doing a night shift as an insult.

The 1988 dispute led to the formation of La Coordination Nationale Infirmiere, the first-ever union in
France solely for nurses. One year later, mainly as a result of personality clashes, a breakaway Union Infirmiere France was set up. Both unions share the same goals but their leaders are unable to settle their differences and form a united front.

While nurses continue to hand in their notices in increasing numbers, it is also becoming harder to recruit new entrants to the profession. In another public poll, more than half of those questioned said they would hesitate to recommend nursing as a career for their children.

Meanwhile, a recent headline in a daily paper sums up the current black mood. 'Infirmiere, un travail de chien.' 'Nursing is dogs' work.'

Janet Snell

Nursing Times 6 November 1991

the CGT is still the premier union in France for nurses. UNISON works closely with the CGT

Why Nurses should strike (1988)

Lesley Fisher, I work as a night sister at St Ann's Hospital in Tottenham, North London. I have been a nurse for 20 years and on 3rd February 1988 I shall be on strike.

This action is not only, or even primarily, about pay. Nurses are extremely angry and bitter about the state of the NHS and frustrated that they cannot deliver the care their parents need. They are fed up with closures of wards and cuts in services, with staff shortages, with moral blackmail and exploitation, underfunding of pay awards and the government's declared intention of

cutting taxes rather than increasing health service funding. They are amazed at the hypocrisy of a government that, in the same week as it claims to care about shortage of specialist nurses, attempts to cut special duty payments. Nurses are incensed by Mrs Thatcher's speech in which she insisted that it is we nurses, driven to this action and at the end of our tether, who are guilty of ruining the NHS.

And, it must be said, our nurses were made extremely angry by Trevor Clay's divisive remark that his members are the only nurses who really care. This issue should not be turned into for an inter-union dispute. We are all nurses and we have the same problems and concerns. We must be united even if we have differences in tactical approach. We have open communication with local RCN members, many of whom found Trevor Clay's speech inflammatory and who have, subsequently, rejected the RCN in favour of NUPE.

We have tried other ways of signalling our feelings to cuts, closures and underfunding by all sorts of means — lobbies, petitions, demonstrations, candle-lit vigils, occupations, road-blocking and well-reasoned arguments — but the most that has been achieved are temporary respites. Parliamentary pressure doesn't work and Mrs Thatcher will not speak even with the distressed parents of sick children.

It seems that direct action by the nurses themselves is the only course left for us to take. After the action taken by 38 nurses in Man chester the government at least temporarily drew back from its intention to cut special duty payments. This has given us confidence in the effectiveness of strike action. But it will be a token withdrawal of labour. We will not be attempting to picket out other workers — this is not an industrial strike.

It goes without saying that nurses, what-ever union they belong to, will not desert patients or take part in any action detrimental to their care. As working nurses know, many clinical areas already function on skeleton staffing levels, and in many cases 'emergency cover' would mean more — not less — staff. This refutes the argument that patients will be affected by reduced staffing, levels in wards where nurses are taking action. In my own hospital, if enough agency nurses cannot be found, striking nurses will provide the cover and donate the money earned for that particular shift to charity. This will show that money is not the main issue of concern. We have talked with patients and they are immensely supportive and understand the reasons for our action.

Nurses do not take the decision to withdraw their labour lightly. We, in Haringey, have decided to take this action because we genuinely believe that only this will bring to the attention of public and politicians the ever-worsening plight of the NHS and its workers. We think that the government has ignored and under-estimated the real and growing concern that nurses feel for their patients and for the NHS, and we hope and pray that today will make the government realise that nurses are at the end of their tether. Without an increased commitment to the NHS, many more nurses will be withdrawing their labour permanently — and not just for 24 hours.

Lesley Fisher



Lesley Fisher former UNISON national health care sector Chair UNISON London health care sector chair until 2007 - still 85% UNISON membership in her Haringey (St Ann's Hospital) branch

Born in Belfast 19 October 1946 , , came to Addenbrookes, Cambridge to train as a nurse, later worked at the Elizabeth Garratt Anderson (EGA) where she be came involved in NUPE, later worked at Wood Green and Southgate hospital) and St Ann's Hospital

NUPE National Nurses Advisory Committee Chair
UNISON National Nurses Committee Chair

Died Scarborough 9th January 2022

After retirement did voluntary work for Scarborough Samaritans Samaritan's
Died Scarborough 9th January 2022
Lesley loved the Sea almost as much as her handbags - and the hearse carrying her coffin made one last trip along the sea front before arriving at the cemetery cemetery

1974 Nurses Dispute - Hospital Worker

Steve Ludlum

Editor of Hospital Worker/NUPE Steward

MANY of the student and younger nurses now beginning to campaign on pay may not remember the great nurses revolt of 1974, so Hospital Worker has been looking back at its reports from that tremendous year to see what lessons they offer us today.

In February 1974 Hospital Worker No 7 gave no hint of the explosion about to occur. A front page article by a nurse in NALGO outlined the recruitment crisis of the time-the 30 per cent dropout rate, the RCN's stranglehold on the negotiating machinery, the pay delay, and calling for unionisation and pointing to recent successful canteen price campaigns by nurses, concluded,

Our only wav out is to organise ourselves locally into existing trade unions and use them to force changes through. If we build up our muscle over small issues we'll be in a position to take up national issues".

The same Hospital Worker gave an account of the pay position: the gradual abandonment of the 1971 25 per cent plus revaluation claim, the RCN's subsequent welcome to Heath's Phase Three in '73. when the original claim was lodged with the Pay Board (yes it's all happened before!).

Nurses Take Action

In a report by a NUPE nurse we read of a NUPE meeting at the House of Commons to launch a recruitment drive. Amazingly, the two NUPE officials
presiding admitted not knowing what the progress of the nurses' pay claim was Perhaps this was because the unions had already accepted the phase 3 offer in January without informing the members! (By the way, at this same meeting, a NUPE steward, explaining to a NUPE sponsored MP Tom Pendry, that we wouldn't seek a full-time union post until they were elected, was advised "Don't get too hung up about democracy!". (Pendry is now appropriately a Labour Whip).

But all this was small beer in the midst of a miners' strike which was soon to bring down the Heath government. Who suspected then what would be going on in a few weeks' time?

For a month later, a Hospital Worker Nurses Special reported on a terrific wave of industrial action over pay from Hammersmith, Edinburgh, Norwich, Ipswich, Mappley, Leeds, Darlington, Balham, Merton, Glasgow, Cumbernauld, Liverpool, Birmingham, Croydon, Bristol, Salford, Manchester, Maidstone, York, and Romford came reports of countless rallies, marches, pickets, short strikes, solidarity meetings, work to rules, bans on paperwork, canteen boycotts, bans on routine admissions, on agency nursing on private patients, on out patients, refusal to act up, even motorcades!

All the big towns had set up joint nurses action committees linking dozens of smaller groups in hospitals, and in
SW London this had widened into a multi-union solidarity campaign, led by Wandsworth busmen who struck in support. Hospital Worker together with the big metropolitan committees, had called

a national action groups conference to try and unite the movement and its demands. The new Labour Government wasn't offering any hope. Within weeks of coming to power, Healey had reversed election statements and declared that wages did, after all, cause inflation. And Health Minister, Barbara Castle, former leftie, had announced that the NHS would have to wait for funds as

"most of the additional wealth the country creates in the next few years is likely to be used to salvage our balance of payments situation and to increase investment".

But the warning signs of a sellout were in the air already, and Hospital Worker advised

"Any nurse can tell them that mass action in the hospitals does more to shake up the Government than any expert negotiator. Six months of spontaneous canteen boycotts by nurses started off this whole rumpus, and pushed the National Negotiators into action.

We must make them see that their negotiating strength lies in strong well-organised workers in hospitals. We're in the unions, we are the unions. Through our local organisations we must use them to put forward our demands, fight the way we want to fight and make sure any settlement comes back to us for our approval before it's agreed".

And indeed the next Hospital Worker declared "Nurses Shame the Squablers".

The RCN had issued a circular warning its members not to expect support if they were indulging in action. NUPE in the name of the Social Contract (haven't we heard it all before?) had withdrawn its official support from the nurses, and COHSE was sniping at NUPE instead of leading action. Neverthless, the action committees seized on COHSE's limited support and with NUPE and even RCN members, carried on regardless.

The National Nurses Action Groups Coordinating Committee born at the Hospital Worker Conference had called a national march in
London for July 8, eventually 10,000 strong, and was pleading with nurses to unite and appeal to other trade unionists for support— with real success. All over the country ancillary and technical staff joined stoppages etc (by now the technicians were on strike on their own account!). In West London 20 odd Engineering Shop Stewards from the Park Royal Industrial Estate descended on a bewildered Administrator at the Central Middlesex Hospital and warned him that if he victimised a single nurse he would cause a district general strike! The whole Manchester dockforce had stopped for two days in solidarity. 100,000 workers on Tyneside had struck for an hour for us, 4,000 workers at CA Parsons giant factory walked out to join a nurses' march passing the works.

Most dramatically of all perhaps, nurses picketed the pitheads at dawn in
South Wales, and the miners struck for the day!

With a steady increase in sympathy strikes taking place, Barbara Castle appointed the Halsbury Committee. The nurses answered with yet more action.
The June Hospital Worker records an even larger a list of apologies to many left out for lack of space. But many of the reports and the editorial columns were warning again of the inevitable sell out unless the mass support of local action groups could be changed into one movement in control of the union machinery.

Halsbury Report

A NUPE steward in the North East reported "The fulltime NUPE officials called a meeting of the Nurses Action Committee recently, although they are not members of it-which promptly rejected the official union policy. We feel more pressures must be exerted on the NUPE executive to bring about a speedy and successful conclusion to the nurses claim."

It was not to be. Over the summer months the action fizzled out. Though in most areas , reporting anger at the sellout, action was continuing on local issues. Indeed within a very few weeks, nurses acting in local union branches were beginning to win thousands of pounds in back acting-up pay.

In October, Halsbury reported and gave the nurses their biggest ever rise, averaging 30 per cent. But the lion's share went to the highest grades up to 55 per cent rises worth £20 a week, with only 5 per cent for the lowest grades who had done all the fighting!

A Halsbury Special Hospital Worker reported almost universal rejection of the report and some close shaves for union officials hailing it as a victory at angry mass meetings. Still the tone of all the reports suggested a determined effort to carry the spirit of the campaign into a fight to unionise nurses and fight locally, summe up by
Aberdeen nurses:

"We have seen that militancy does pay. We have realised the need for solidarity and cooperation between all Health Service Unions. To ensure this, a Joint Shop Stewards Committee has been formed for the Aberdeen Group of Hospitals and already joint action has been taken over banning private patients. We have learned that only by abandoning the idea of professionalism and becoming actively involved in the trade union movement can conditions in the health service be improved both for the workers and the

patients." '


The serious lessons of '74 are to build mass action groups in the unions to unite nurses in different unions, and unite nurses with other NHS workers-demanding from them pledges of protect ion against the victimisation which young nurses are so vulnerable to. Not to turn away from the union machine because it seems a hopeless task to control it. It's not hopeless—in '74 the nurses in NUPE's North East division were highly organised within their branches and forced Fisher to support their action to the end officially,

months after the rest of the country had been told to lay off! And the overwhelming message from '74 is this—if nurses go to other trade unionists, in other industries, the support they get is un-believable. Certainly no other group of workers can command the same solidarity, not even the miners.


Are we about to have a re-run? Again, election fever is in the air, again a new Social Contract (Concordat )has been hatched, and the unions are running for cover.

This time COHSE abandoned the ancillaries, and NUPE fought on. Again the RCN adopted its reactionary role and got out the begging bowl—but again the token action had started, again, apparently spontaneously, vigils, meetings, petitionings and small delegations to Westminster were reported with increasing frequency.

At the time of writing the most valuable lesson from '74 is that in a few weeks time anything could have mush-roomed from tiny protests now in progress. Let History repeat itself (at least the good bits!)


Hospital Worker was primarily a Socialist Workers Party (International Socialist) publication with a rather simplistic analysis. However the Nurses Action Committees were very important to the dispute (COHSE was keen enough to recruit a number of these nurses as full time officers ie Bob Quick from Chester Nurses Action Committee)

"Insult" to Duke of York.

Red Flag on Asylum Building.

January 1927 National Asylum Workers Union Journal

Gateshead Town Council on January 5th refused to allow the Communist Party to hold meetings in the Town Hall. During the proceedings there was a stormy scene arising out of an incident- at the Corporation's mental asylum at Stannington, where, it was alleged, a "red flag" was flown while the Duke of York was at the neighbouring hostel of the Newcastle Poor Children's Holiday Association.

Councillor White said the statement was not true, and refused to sit down when ordered. After a good deal of uproar the Mayor explained that the red flag was exhibited from a window of a building on the asylum estate. When an employee was called before the committee he denied showing the flag and said it was flown by his daughter.

The Mayor said the committee did not believe the statement, and declared that the red flag was flown " to insult the Duke of York, the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, the Sheriff, and the Union Jack." He had never known such impudence.

It was agreed that the committee should further investigate the matter.


Red Flags were regular flown by protesters from Workhouses in the 1930’s as part of the national unemployed Workers Movement campaign

Red Flags were flown over hospitals in Glasgow on July 5th 1948 when the NHS came into being.

Red Flags flown over Monaghan and Letterkenny Hospital “Soviets” in Ireland

7,000 march in Sheffield (1973)

7,000 Ancillary Workers March in Sheffield

By Hector Mackenzie COHSE No. 2 Regional Secretary

COHSE Journal "Health Services" May 1973

On 16 March the Yorkshire Co-ordinating Committee decided that it was time to carry the battle for justice for ancillary members a stage further - to the streets of the major cities. The time was felt to be opportune because of the increasing number of messages of support from trade unionists out-side the Health Service and the anticipated support from the Sheffield Trades and Labour Council. It was time the public got the message,

To support the planned demonstration march and rally it was decided that there
should be a twenty-four-hour stoppage of work at all hospitals in
Sheffield, Doncaster and Rotherham. Barnsley members were at the time already involved in strike action with stoppages of longer duration.

The subsequent demonstration on 23 March turned out to be one of the largest ever seen in the city of
Sheffield - estimates put the numbers marching as high as 7,000. In addition to the unions directly involved in the dispute, there was strong support from other South Yorkshire unions, both from industry and from the mines.

Confederation members from
Doncaster, Barnsley and Rotherham arrived in their coach loads to strengthen the huge turnout from the Sheffield branches.

The marchers left the assembly point at the Wicker Goods Yard in
Sheffield and at no time during the next half hour could the tail end of the march be seen from the front: in fact, two rallies had to be hurriedly organised when the march terminated at the city hall, as the numbers involved exceeded all expectations. Speakers had to dash from the hall to address the thousands thronging

on the steps outside. Terry Mallinson, COHSE National Officer addressed demonstrators, along with Alan Fisher on NUPE and officers of the other ASC

unions. Speeches of support were made by officers and branch officers of many other unions, too.

The following day saw demonstrators taking to the streets of Leeds and Hull

The rally after the Leeds meeting was chaired by Sid Ambler, COHSE NEC member, and members were again addressed by Terry Mallinson and Alan Fisher.

The weather was kind to the demonstrators at Sheffield and Leeds, but by the time the Hull demonstration was due to move off, it had very definitely taken a turn for the worse. Spirits were not dampened, however, and after the march, the rally was addressed by the indefatigable Terry Mallinson and by John Prescott MP. More demonstrations were to follow - Newcastle on 31 March 1973 and Doncaster on 6 April 1973.

For people who are not traditional marchers, our members certainly made their

presence felt and the forest of banners placards and posters made an impressive

sight in all these cities. Leaflets setting out the ancillary staffs case were handed out to the public and the demonstrations were a triumph for organisers and marchers alike.

Isle of Man Nurses Strike (1982)

The Island’s nurses in revolt take historic action (1982)

Mike Pentelow (Morning Star) reports on the Victorian-style conditions of hospital nurses on the Isle of Man.

The nurses are taking action in common with their colleagues on mainland Britain

NURSES on the Isle of Man made history yesterday, becoming the first workers there since the general strike of 1926 to take industrial action simultaneously with their colleagues in Britain.

It is a sign of growing dissatisfaction with working conditions and antiquated attitudes to unions by the extremely right wing government, said COHSE

branch secretary Albert Kelly.

The nurses have imposed an indefinite ban from yesterday on non-nursing duties they have to do, which are normally done in Britain by plotters, laundry staff, cleaners and telephonists.

These tasks leave less time for patient care duties, said Mr.

Kelly. Coupled with a refusal to consult staff before introducing changes, the duties have led to the increased militancy.

Membership of the union on the island has soared in the last 18 months from just 25 to 500 out of a potential 1,000 and is still growing. The government has reacted by singling out COHSE from other unions to stop deducting their contributions from wages.

Chairman of the islands Health Services Board, Albert Callin, tried to stave off the action by pressurising nurses with letters sent direct to them individually asking them to continue normal working.

"Any action which affects the duties an employee has been engaged to perform," he wrote, must affect the "standard of care able to be given to patients." of the disabled and there were two disabled telephonists on the unemployment register at the time. But management refused to employ them, saying it could not afford it.

"This really illustrates the attitude of the extremely right-wing government," said Mr. Kelly. It can easily afford to employ them as the difference between the disability grant that they were paying anyway and wages would not have been great.

Another bone of contention is making nurses responsible for checking the reasons why burglar or fire alarms go off rather than employing security staff to do it.

This means nurses at night especially may face the invidious choice of attending medical or non-medical emergencies.

"We want the Health Services Board to have a policy of consultation and negotiations with the union," said Mr. Kelly.

At present they have to fight bitter battles for basic rights such as cooked meals facilities for nurses on the night shift who have to work from 8pm to 7am.

Perhaps the worst exploitation. however, occurs in the private nursing homes for old people which have sprung up because of the aging population. This has brought pressure on geriatric wards in the hospitals.

These homes often have charitable status yet charge patients £80 a week or more while paying staff on nursing duties as little as £40 to £50 a week.

The nurses are not allowed to join the union normally and there is no extra t>ay for week-end work. In, one case night work was paid with an extra l0p a week.

"One of the problems with the Isle of Man is that employers for years have been able to dictate terms," said Mr. Kelly.

Typical of this he added, was the government's refusal to accept any laws on employment protection, equal pay or sex discrimination.

He hoped British unions, many of whom hold their conferences on the island, would take a greater interest in its workers.

COHSE later refused to hold it's conference on the Isle of Man because of its stance on equality issues (unlike NALGO), placing the COHSE branch undre great internal pressure, however it remained loyal throughout

The right to wear the union badge


In October, 1918, there was a five days strike of the female nurses and asylum attendants at the Bodmin Asylum, Cornwall, members of the National Asylum Workers Union.

The strike was the direct result of excessive hours of duty (80 hours or more), bad conditions (no pay rise, poor food and accommodation), and systematic petty tyranny introduced by the new Matron Miss Margaret Hiney.

The matron however, meet her match when Mrs Hawken a nurse and former NAWU member at Prestwich Asylum arrived and organised 62 out of 70 staff into the union.

Many staff started to war the union’s distinctive badge, but were ordered by the Matron to “take off that thing”. . The nurses were hauled before the Matron and instructed to remove the badges, as a result the “ringleaders” Hawken, Hill, Adams, Richards and Whitford were dismissed by the Medical Superintendent

On the 22nd October 1918, the staff were returning to the wards when they met Dr Dudley who informed them that they could after all wear the NAWU badge, but he refused to reinstate the rebel five, The women union members stated in response “all or none” .

What brought the trouble to a head was the wearing of the Union badges on duty by some of the nurses, who were suspended and then dismissed. Other nurses walked out with them, and altogether 39 women were on strike when Mr. Shaw (acting Secretary) reached Bodmin, and this number increased to 50.

All the 50 women were dismissed by the Medical Superintendent.

The negotiations that followed ended in the complete triumph of

the Union. The Visiting Committee of the Asylum, after

hearing Mr. Shaw and a deputation from the strikers, passed the

following resolution :—

" That the Visiting Committee recognise the N.A.W.U.,

and that the Asylum employees, being members of the Union,

be allowed to wear the official badge in such a position as not to

cause any injury to patients.

" That the Committee have decided solely in the interests

of the patients to reinstate all the attendants on strike."

The Matron was given a succession of periods of “sick leave” and resigned in February 1919.


The moral of the story was not lost, and activists in COHSE would often recount the fight to “wear the union badge” to Nursing Officers, especially in General hospital’s who well into the 1980’s tried to stop nurses wearing union badges while allowing them to wear Royal College of Nursing.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

1982 Rcn leaflet attacking COHSE & NUPE

RCN Nurses Pay – the Facts (1982)


Some thoughts to consider when reading COHSE/NUPE propaganda COHSE and NUPE do not believe that nurses' pay should be a 'special case'. The Rcn emphatically does. As a nurse, do you?

"The Rcn is doing nothing to help nurses get better pay. "

The increase of 1.1 per cent on the 6.4 per cent offer is totally inadequate, but had the Rcn's first ballot not demonstrated to a surprised Government the strength of feeling among Rcn members, it is unlikely that nurses would have been offered any more at all. Has industrial action yet resulted in any increased offer?

"The Rcn is being divisive in wanting more money for nurses than for other equally deserving health workers, and hasn't supported the TUC's campaign for better wages for all health service workers. "

The Rcn is under no illusion about the shamefully low levels of pay currently earned by many different groups of workers in the NHS, workers on whom the smooth running of the NHS depends no less than on doctors and nurses. But the Rcn exists to promote the interests of nurses, and believes that nurses are

special, as should the Nurses and Midwives Whitley Council. Isn't it about time that all the organisationson the Staff Side of the Nurses and Midwives Whitley Council woke up to this fact?

"The Rcn doesn't strike, but rides on the backs of other unions which are taking positive action”

This Government seems determined, as few administrations have been before, to show that industrial action, whether undertaken by civil servants, railwaymen or health service workers, does not succeed. Rightly or wrongly, this fact cannot be ignored. The problem of the present pay round will not disappear. Sooner or later negotiations on the 1982 pay claim will have to recontinue and the Rcn says 'the sooner the better'.

"The Rcn is not worried about this year's pay talks but is pinning its hopes on a new mechanism for the future."

Because the other organisations are not exclusively committed to promoting nurses' interests, they have delayed, and continue to delay, talks to find a permanent solution to the problem of nurses' pay. The police and the fire service have successfully negotiated pay formulas that safeguard their pay in relation to

annual pay movements generally. The Government has now committed itself to do the same for nurses by next April. Do you want to sacrifice this opportunity by allying yourself with organisations who have no special interest in nurses?

"The Rcn only represents senior staff. "

60,000 students would disagree and there are certainly not 135,000 nurse managers! The Rcn represents all trained nurses and nurses in training with equal enthusiasm. It is the one professional organisation and trade union for all nurses.

"Nurses are leaving the Rcn in droves. "

Not true. The Rcn is continuing to receive a steady stream of applications from nurses who recognise that a nursing organisation is the only one qualified to look after their interests.

Finally, the Rcn lets its members decide. Would COHSE or NUPE dare to ballot their nurse members on the present offer?

Ancillary Demo 3 January 1979

To: All COHSE Branches, NEC Members and Officers

3rd January, 1979


MONDAY, 22nd JANUARY, 1979

COHSE Branches have been notified of the pay offers in respect of ancillary and Ambulance Staffs, the ballot 0f these staffs as to whether the offers were acceptable has been overwhelmingly in favour of their rejection. Various meetings have taken place at the highest level nationally to effect an acceptance ^n the part of Government to have the classes involved i.e. Ancillary and Ambulance Staffs and Local Government Manual workers to be treated as a special case in respect of pay and a special enquiry to be set up with appropriate terms of reference, by the Secretary of State for Employment by agreement of other Ministers. These measures will continue to be pressed with vigour until our objective is reached.

The COHSE National Executive Committee will meet on Wednesday, 10th January, 1979 to consider positive action to be taken by COHSE in conjunction with NUPE, G&MWU and T&GWU in the interests of our members following the Demonstration on 22nd January. In the meantime it is necessary to organise a massive Demonstration of solidarity and to lobby Members of Parliament on 22nd January, 1979. The success of the Demonstration is of paramount importance to the whole of our membership Should it fail, the inevitable consequences would be the imposition of pay increases in the region of 5% for all Health Service Staffs, whilst settlements in the private sector of employment are being concluded between 15% and 20% of earnings. In order, therefore, to enable the National Executive Committee to give effect to measures in the interest of all members, it is vital for all classes of staff to participate in the 'Day of Action' on 22nd January and Branch meetings should be organised to draw up firm arrangements with this object in view.

Branches are advised to inform local management well in advance of members agreeing to attend the National Demonstration with a view to them being released from duty. In the event of management declining to co-operate, they should be informed that the number of members deemed necessary to represent the interests of the Branch at the 'Day of Action' will be withdrawn from work, ensuring adequate provision is made for patient care. Regional Officers will be available to give help and advice to Branches, should the necessity arise.

Let us march forward in unity and, by our efforts win the support of the public to ensure wiser counsels prevail in Government and that we win justice on the day for our Ambulance, Ancillary and Local Government members, thus securing like treatment for ALL Health Staffs on the day following.

I attach details of the arrangements for the 'Day of Action' confident of all Branches support.



COHSE General Secretary

3rd January 1979

The "Fightback " Campaign

FIGHTBACK was established 1978 as a national organisation, by several major anti-cuts campaigns. its aim was to support and co-ordinate any campaign or trade union action taken aginst the cuts in the NHS



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We enclose leaflets for Fightback's Conference against Private Medicine.

The aim of the conference is to launch an active campaign against private

medicine throughout the trade union movement involving anti-cuts


The conference is designed to involve rank and file trades unionists and anti-cuts campaigns in the formulation of a Plan of Action that will build a campaign rooted in the shop floor, trade union branches and the community. It is only in this context that private medicine becomes anything more than a subject for paper resolutions.

To enable delegates to take arguments back to their organisations and branches there will be a Fightback Action Sheet on private medicine on sale at the conference. A full pamphlet on private medicine will be available later in the summer incorporating the conference decisions.

To allow us to prepare the best possible conference papers, we would be glad to hear from anyone who has information or experiences from local areas on private health care which mav be of use to other people. We would also like to hear from members of unions which have negotiated private health Insurance schemes.


SPEAKERS; Andrew Jack, Metropolitan District of NALGO

- the facts of private health care.-

Jeanette Mitchell. Secretary Brent CHC.

- cuts and private medicine.

Andrea Campbell, COHSE Wandsworth and East Merton

- fighting for the NHS. .

CHAIR: Ernie Roberts, MP

There will be one workshop session and plenary sessions to ensure the

maximum possible debate.


Send a delegate to the Conference and your constituent branches to do so,

Argue for support from CATC' s and TUC regions and union Divisions

Send a donation if at all possible.

Include the leaflets in your next mailing [-further copies available)

Yours in solidarity,

Vicky Hutchins & Doug Holton

for Fightback

30 Camden Rd./ London NW1 01-485 8610

Origins of LHE

This is the original meeting that led to the establishment of London Health Emergency


London Health Service Campaign

AFTER JUNE THE 9th 1983 (General Election)


During the General Election Campaign, the figures for the cuts in Lonion's

Health Service were re-calculated to include the notional extra 2% per annum

that is considered to be needed on top of an allowance for inflation, to take

account of the ageing population and the growing costs of medical technology.

This showed that the cut in cash allocations to London Health Districts this

year is in the region of £6 5millions!

This information was press-released in the last week before June the 9th, and

was also sent to Labour candidates standing in marginals. Whatever effect this had is lost in the crushing defeat inflicted on Labour. The prospects are now

grim for us all - A Tory Government with a massive majority in the House of

Commons ( even if they won with a minority of the total votes cast ), and

Thatcher is already dumping the 'wets'. For those of us active in and around

the Health Service, our job is to prepare for the new attacks that will un-doubtedly come. The best way if doing this is to examine past and present campaigns, in order to try to identify tactics that may be useful in the immediate future, and to encourage resistance in every form, both from Union members and from local community organisations.

Consultation documents are now out on a number of threatened hospitals, with a

string of final decisions due over the next few months. It therefore seems appropriate to ask all campaigns to get together to examine strategy. It is proposed to hold a day-school, that will look at all the ways that past campaigns have tried to resist closures and cuts in the NHS, with an emphasis on practical

possibilities - no rhetoric or hot air ! Although nobody likes to give up a Saturday, this seems the best day to run such a school, as the amount of ground

to cover rules out an evening. A creche will be provided for children, but please let us know if you need to bring your kids, so that the right numbers can be catered for.



Topics to be covered will include: types of industrial action; general campaigning

ideas; using the media; building community support; the role of the medical profession; who are you trying to influence? etc etc.

People with experience in these aspects will be asked to introduce each session, and then there will be work and discussion in small groups. The day is designed particularly for HHS trade unionists and members of community campaigns, but Trades Councils and other interested parties are also welcome to attend. It will not be possible for lunch to be supplied, so those attending should

bring 'sandwiches.; Alternatively a nearby pub does food. Tea and coffee will be available during the day. There is no fee, so please return the slip below as soon as possible. A full programme and timetable will be sent to you in advance.

Please return to Hackney Trades Council Support Unit, 34 Dalston Lane, London E8

ITGWU Irish Nurses Deal 1956

In our last issue we reported on the threatened stoppage of work by the mental hospital nursing staffs throughout the country following the failure of negotiations to resolve the matters at issue.

We are now pleased to record that this stoppage has been averted and an amicable and very satisfactory settlement effected following the resumption of negotiations with the representatives of the Managers of the mental hospitals under the auspices of the Labour Court.

The Court's intervention in the dispute led to the setting up of a Provisional Conciliation Council presided over by Mr. E. de Burca of the Labour Court, assisted by Mr. E. B. Barry of the Court, who acted as Secretary. Our representatives on the Council were ably assisted by Mr. James Larkin, T.D., General Secretary, Workers' Union of Ireland, Mr. John Foster, Workers' Union of

Ireland and Grangegorman Mental Hospital, and by Miss M. Sugrue and Miss C. Breslin of the Irish Women Workers' Union.

The Council's deliberation resulted in the following agreement :—

(1)that a permanent body on thelines of a Joint Industrial Council be established immediately to consider future claims relating to salaries and conditions of service of nursing and attendant staffs.

(2) that the following national salary scales apply to mental nursing and attendant staffs (exclusive of senior nursing posts):

Male attendants — £290+£5 to £305.

Male nurses — £345+£10 to £395, to £405 after 11 years, to £410 after 15 years, and to £415 after 20 years.

Female attendants—£265+£4 to £277

Female nurses — £305 + £10 to £365 and to £375 after 20 years

In addition to these scales £25 p.a. is payable to a Deputy Charge nurse and £45 p.a. to Charge nurses.

Cost of living allowances granted on a national basis on and after 1st November, 1952, shall be added to the above scales.

It is accepted by the Provisional Council that any of the parties may submit at any future date for consideration and determination by the Council a proposal for the amending of the above salary scales on a national basis and further, that any of the parties may submit at any time for consideration and determination bv the Council claims in respect of conditions of employment and service such as overtime conditions and payments and problems in respect of supervision and overcrowding.

Nothing herein contained shall prejudice in any way any personal plus allowances already being paid in any district mental hospital.

The Council agrees that the scales set out above shall be payable

on and from 1st December, 1955.

ITGWU (SIPTU) Liberty, March, 1956.