HOSPITAL staff in their dozens formed a picket line outside Wigan Infirmary during a four hour strike yesterday over a pay dispute.
Unison, GMB, Unite and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) were among seven unions taking part in the first walkout by NHS staff in three decades.
More than 100 workers gathered outside the Haigh Hall Plantation Gates opposite an entrance to Wigan’s hospital site between 7am and 11am.
Passing motorists beeped their horns to show support and one couple pulled over to pass on a box of chocolates for the strikers.
Unions have said most NHS workers will not receive a pay rise because only those at the top of their pay band will get a one per cent raise offer.
Unison representative Sue Ratchford said: “Striking is not something any of us wanted to do but we feel like we have been left with no alternative.
“We have not had a pay rise for five years. We had been asking for a one per cent rise for all staff.”
Unite’s Ross Parkinson said: “The Government has taken upon itself to ignore the pay review.”
Danielle Johnson of the RCM said: “The one per cent pay rise has only been offered to certain staff depending on their pay band but we are fighting for everyone.
“Our service is running today, we love the women we care for and wouldn’t let them down.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “We are disappointed that trade unions are taking industrial action.
“NHS staff are our greatest asset, and we’ve increased the NHS budget to pay for over 12,500 more clinical staff since 2010. “We cannot afford a pay rise in addition to increments – which disproportionately reward the highest earners – without risking frontline jobs.”
Rob Webster, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said authorities and staff are working through one of the toughest times in the history of the health service.
He added: “A pay award for all staff, on top of increments, would have cost £450 million more – the equivalent of 14,000 newly qualified nurses.
“We hope progress with all parties is still possible.”