HEALTH services across the south could be hit by strikes, with up to 6,000 union members in Hampshire set to be balloted for industrial action.

Unison yesterday agreed to take the step as its bitter dispute with the Government over pay continues.

The union’s health conference backed an emergency motion calling for the union’s 450,000 NHS members to be asked whether they want to strike and take other industrial action over the decision by ministers not to award an across-the-board one per cent wage rise, as recommended by a pay review body.

This would see the county’s thousands of Unison members working at Southampton General Hospital, Southern Health, Solent NHS Trust and the Royal South Hants all balloted.

Christina McAnea, the union’s national officer for health, said: “Our members don’t strike often or easily, but this time it does feel that we have no choice.

“We’re not asking members to strike for one per cent. We’re saying strike for a pay award that starts to redress the value of your pay, strike for a living wage for all, and because a demoralised and demotivated workforce is not good for patients.”

Ms McAnea said any campaign would be long and would involve a mixture of action, with other unions taking part.

A day of protest will be held on June 5 as part of Unison’s campaign for a ‘yes’ vote in the strike ballot.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Giving staff a pay rise this year on top of increments would cost the equivalent of paying for 6,000 nurses, and could risk unsafe care.

“Our door is open to trade unions if they wish to discuss how we can make the NHS pay system fairer.

“If trade unions agree to freeze incremental pay next year, we would be able to give all NHS employed staff a consolidated one per cent pay rise for the next two years.”