Lincolnshire County Council clash over Health Visitors strike

“If people don’t want to work for Lincolnshire County Council we can’t help that”, a senior councillor said as health workers continue to strike against pay.

Executive councillor for adult care, health and children’s services Coun Patricia Bradwell told the authority’s full council meeting on Friday that a full roster of 140 health visitors were now hired.

Prior to the meeting, health visitors and their union representatives gathered outside the authority to protest pay and conditions – Climate change protestors also incresed the pressure outside the councill offices in a separate demonstration.

Coun Bradwell said health staff had been offered a “like-for-like” pay arrangement after being transferred from NHS care.

“We’ve extended our pay scale beyond that offered by the NHS and staff can move on to these grades through a career progression portfolio.

“It’s not that we’re not working with the staff, we have offered a like-for-like pay grade for them.”

Talks are no longer ongoing because it was is considered to be about national issues, she said.

She claimed it was only a “small cohort” of staff who were not happy.

“We know we’ve got 10 people striking. Yes, some of them don’t want to be with the council. They don’t want to work within a local authority, they want to work in a health environment.

“We can’t help that. We brought the health visiting back, we believe it’s working in a much better way for families.”

However, campaigners argued at least 20 people were taking part in the protests.

Unison’s Phil Smith, trade union liaison officer, said: “We were all shocked to hear councillor Bradwell claim there were only 10 striking visitors. Outside the building there were a crowd of 20 and there are others who couldn’t be here today.

“Numbers are almost irrelevant however in this sector, as it’s one where people are vocationally employed.

“People in the health service very rarely, and only in the most extreme circumstances, vote to strike.”

He said the pay-scale offered was a two-bracket system involving different rates of pay “but those at the lower rate are still required to work up to and include all of the roles of the higher grade.

“It is a different system, which means people can stay in a single role for years and years working at the very top of their skill set and not being paid for that,” he said.

County councillor Rob Parker pointed in the meeting to a recent CQC report which said staff were “frightened to speak out”, had low morale and felt undervalued.

However, Coun Bradwell said the report was actually positive, adding that some of the comments were inaccurate.

She said only 11 people out of 140 staff had complained, adding: “If 50 staff had said that I would be concerned.

“We know it’s a different way of working in local authority than it is a health authority. It’s all about the service that’s delivered to children and families.”