Health visitors have begun what could be six days of strike action over pay rises and an “erosion of professional standards”.
Health visitors under the Unite union gathered outside Lincolnshire County Council offices this morning (Monday) to demand pay rises.
The county council has said it has plans in place to cover absences should the strikes continue, and invited Unite back to the table to resolve the dispute.
Union officials say the staff have not had a pay rise since they were transferred from the NHS to Lincolnshire County Council 2017, and are losing more than £2,000 a year in real terms.
They criticised the authority for failing to echo a 6.5% hike in pay accepted by NHS staff in England last year.
Unite Regional Officer Steve Syson said: “A lot of those here today are 20-year people at the top of their band and our view is they should be in the top pay, but instead they’ve been offered the lower level. They should be remunerated properly.”
Unite says the council has created a two-tier health visitor service and placed trained professionals on the lower tier, and therefore the lower pay band.
He said a new role created by the authority was “not fit for purpose” and has been a downgrade of health visitors’ professional status, while the workload remains the same .
Caroline Fisher, a local health visitor, said she had been waiting eight years for a pay increase.
She said: “It pinches into my pocket and my family’s. I should be planning for my retirement this year, but instead I’m having to defer it.”
Interim Director of Education at Lincolnshire County Council, Heather Sandy, has previously said the authority “highly values the role of health visitors as part of our workforce” and called them “an essential part of children services”.
“We have always been prepared to sit round the table with Unite and will continue to be available for further talks so we can resolve the issue as soon as possible,” she said.
“We wish to reassure the public that if these strikes go ahead, we have plans in place to cover absences, particularly in the most vulnerable areas.”