Alliances in action: Opportunities and threats to solidarity between workers and service users in health and social care disputes.
Social Theory and Health, 7
This paper reflects upon the recent mental-health nurses' strike following the sacking of Karen Reissman by Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust. Nursing strikes are rare, though there is a significant strand of militancy in the history of nursing. Analysis of the Manchester dispute and associated media coverage is relied on as a point of departure for a more general discussion around issues of solidarity and connections between trade union and service-user activism. These issues are explored in a context of the industrial and social relations of mental-health care. It is argued that regressive, stereotypical representations of mental health, which appeal to fears surrounding public safety, are a feature of this industrial-relation territory. This paper proposes that social relations of work and connections with the wider community could be transformed by a dual strategy: pursuing a more progressive and inclusive understanding of mental health and building stronger alliances between trade union, community and service-user activists.