In February it was revealed that the Con-Dem government is preparing a 'war plan' in an attempt to prevent coordinated strike action against the cuts.
Tory MP Francis Maude is reported to be overseeing the plans, including the training of scab workforces. After the handover of Birmingham prison to private contractor G4S, the BBC reported that justice minister Ken Clarke said that the "military are involved" in contingency plans should prison officers stage a strike.
Here BILL MULLINS looks at further evidence of how NHS employers are preparing to undermine workers' action.NHS bosses in the west midlands have circulated a twelve page paper, a "working draft subject to publication and restricted in circulation" to local health trusts. It details how employers should make plans to undermine any attempt by health workers to defend their jobs and services.
In the grossly misnamed paper, NHS Contingency Planning: Ensuring Effective Employee Relations, it says, with some understatement, that there is "some uncertainty with respect to the national industrial relations outlook".
You bet there is! Tens of thousands of health workers voted with their feet and joined the massive TUC demo on 26 March to give notice to their bosses that they won't stand back and accept cuts without a massive fightback once they are given a lead.
The paper lists a number of 'flash points' which can cause trouble including "pay review" (zero increases and cancellation of previous agreements to increase pay incrementally); "pensions" (the bosses are planning to rip up the last pensions deal which gave protection to existing staff. At the same time they want to increase employee contributions and increase the retirement age); and other "changes as a consequence of the [health] White Paper", which give "potential for employee unrest".
The paper complains that the only "contingency plans" in place across NHS organisations deal with the effect on staff of a flu epidemic, not "employee unrest", and have never been tested!
Anti union laws
The paper’s authors start by advising employers to reach for the legal protection of the anti-union laws in the first instance. The only way that the workers can have protection from dismissal is if they can organise an official dispute and avoid falling foul of the anti-union laws, they say. Otherwise workers are in breach of their contracts of employment and the unions do not have immunity from damages if they don’t strictly abide by the legal provisions.
The advice lists potential types of industrial action from "work to rule" to "lock ins". To prepare for this they say that all databases should be updated, particularly listing "volunteer, student and return-to-work staff databases" and later on "St John's ambulance". What is this but a scabs' charter?
The authors recommend that the bosses should work out who is likely to scab from among their employees, "particularly managerial staff or, more specifically, non-unionised staff". On another page it lists where the unions in hospital departments are strong and not so strong.
In its war on the unions, this paper highlights that one of the main reasons the anti-union laws (employment acts) require the unions to give the bosses seven days' notice of any proposed ballot is that this gives time for the bosses to get to the workers first with their anti-strike propaganda.
It lists the requirements of the unions to tell the employer where their members are and what grade they are on. This, of course, has been used by other bosses to get court injunctions against the unions, claiming that the information the unions gave them was not accurate. Unions such as the RMT have overturned such decisions.
Reading this document from one region of the country and one part of the public sector it makes you wonder what information the trade union leaders are giving to their members on how to prepare to take on the bosses
The bosses are seriously preparing, from the Con-Dem government down, to push through their cuts programme. It's high time the unions also gave a clear lead to their members by preparing them as well.