As the SKWAWKBOX showed earlier today, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt presented his ‘flexible working app’ to the Tories’ annual conference as a sign of ‘appreciation’ for nurses and other NHS workers – but he couldn’t help admitting that the app was really all about getting staff to
do extra hours at short notice.
Hunt said that the new ‘flexible working arrangement’ would be ‘offered’ to all staff – but who can seriously doubt that the ‘offer’ will be made in the same way that a new contract was ‘offered’ to doctors to force them to work more hours for less pay? This is how Hunt announced his plan:
Many SKWAWKBOX readers pointed out that such an ‘app-based’ ‘flexible working arrangement’ in fact amounts to the ‘Uberisation’ of healthcare work – NHS Trusts forced to fill their rotas by calling in staff to ‘do extra hours at short notice’, as Hunt described it to the handful of Tories in the conference hall.
It’s not only SKWAWKBOX readers who identified the reality of Hunt’s ‘gesture’ that was somehow supposed to make NHS staff feel appreciated. The GMB union, which represents many health-sector employees, put out a statement today in which National Secretary for Public Services Rehana Azam said:
As if NHS staff don’t have enough on their plate with real terms pay cuts, stress on the job and ever-increasing workloads – now Jeremy Hunt wants to force them into the gig economy as well.
Public sector workers are already putting in £11 billion worth of unpaid overtime every year and many of our NHS members already take on bank work to make ends meet.
The idea that there is some untapped reserve of labour in the NHS that can be unlocked with an app is pure fantasy.
Having our overworked, underpaid NHS staff being told via an app they are not needed at the last minute is a terrible idea and the start of a slippery slope.
You only have to look at this model in health and social care where zero hours contracts and 15 minute slots to look after the elderly have left the system on the brink of collapse.
Instead of wasting money creating Uber for the NHS, why doesn’t the health secretary give all NHS staff the pay rise they desperately need?
The Tories will no doubt deny that this is the aim of their new ‘app-based flexible working offering’.
But this is not the first time they have let slip their plan to have us all working in insecure jobs with no benefits or certain hours – and there is no doubt at all that they are deeply and ideologically smitten by the idea of insecure ‘gig’ working.
Last autumn, Tory First Secretary of State Damian Green talked to the press about a future economy in which jobs had no security, no sickness benefits, no holiday pay and no pensions.
And he called it ‘exciting’:
The NHS is the largest employer in the country, one of the largest in the world – and the Tories clearly see its ‘uberisation’ as both an opportunity to kill off a national treasure they have always hated – and to accelerate a trend they want to see extend into every industry and every area of our society.
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