Sunday, 1 July 2007

The fightback campaign so far

The National Blood Service is divided into 3 geographical zones: Midlands and South West, London and South East, and Northern.

NBS directors announced the strategy first in the Midlands and South West, several months ahead of the rest of the country. We feel that this was a deliberate tactic to test the waters of opposition before fully rolling it out nationally.

Although unions began negotiation with management at once, the public profile of the campaign against centralisation was not raised highly enough at this crucial stage.
Shellshocked staff were let down by the lack of communication between blood centres and the failure of the unions' leadership to go all out to make a fuss in the media. We have learnt lessons from our slow start to the campaign, and now that the restructuring plans apply across all zones, we must work hard to make up for the lost time when awareness could have been better raised.

Staff repeatedly attended meetings of the NBS board of directors, to protest, speak directly with executives, and submit well-reasoned counter-proposals. Staff-side reps spent hours researching and costing alternatives to just three supercentres, but these were without exception disregarded as the Board has stubbornly railroaded ahead with their precious flagship strategy.

Lobbying the board 2
Staff and reps at an NBS board meeting in Elstree

A petition was launched from the start of the campaign, with signatures collected on public street stalls. We already have several 1000s of names, of friends, family, fellow health workers, and the public, who support us.
Please sign our online e-petition now!

NBS staff held united national demonstrations on February 14th (symbolically chosen as Valentine's Day) which received good media coverage.

Sheffield Valentine's demo
Sheffield blood centre's Valentine's Day protest

Leeds Valentine's 2
Leeds blood centre's Valentine's Day protest

Further protests followed at all centres on June 15th 2007, one day after World Blood Donor Day, a final warning to management that staff would not meekly accept their reckless slashing of the Blood Service.

B'ham demo (15th June) 4
The message is loud and clear from Birmingham blood centre

Watch the film of NBS Birmingham's demo

For many more pictures of our campaign in action please see the links table to the right of the page.

After months of fruitless negotiating, bosses have arrogantly not accepted any alteration to their proposal from staffside. This has forced the unions to move into the unwelcome phase of balloting staff for industrial action. Amicus (now part of Unite) have already carried out one preliminary ballot of their technical lab staff to consult them on their willingness to take action. 81% voted in favour. Now all of the unions involved will be starting the legal ballot process again, together.

The situation for emergency workers in dispute is always difficult and they often feel that their position is weakened because withdrawal of labour will cost lives. This decision is never taken lightly. The Government and health bosses take advantage of this difficulty to force through damaging changes to our NHS. With public support this strategy can be shown up as what it is: bullying. As such it cannot be condoned. Any problems that result from a dispute are fundamentally caused by the Government pushing skilled workers into a position where they must defend the service with the only effective means at their disposal. Any problems caused by such action will pale into insignificance when these local centres disappear. Unions and staff will ensure that vital cover is provided to serve patients. The whole point of taking action is to defend the service from cuts, and make sure blood continues to get through to those who need it.

See next post for the unions' open letter to the NHSBT board of directors on industrial action.



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