NHS unions must be ‘creative and brave’ to keep national pay
By Mark Smulian | 10 September 2012
NHS Employers has called on trade unions to be ‘creative and brave’ in the national pay deal talks that begin this week.
But Unison has warned that this will be hard to achieve unless the employers bring the South West Pay Terms and Conditions Consortium to heel. This is attempting to establish a separate pay and conditions package
for the region’s 20 trusts.
NHS Employers director Dean Royles said the unions should ‘act with urgency’, noting that most employers wanted to preserve national pay bargaining, but needed flexibility for this to happen.
The two sides are due to meet on September 14 to discuss the national pay deal, known as Agenda for Change.
Royles said: ‘Employers understand the financial challenges facing staff, particularly following pension reform, and unions clearly appreciate the problems facing employers. We have been open and transparent with each other.’
He said pay accounted for 65% of employers’ costs and ‘the NHS needs a deal that is more affordable, sustainable and responsive to deliver best value for our patients and better job security for our staff’.
‘To get there, we need to be creative and brave and to act with urgency. The financial pressures are building and we all know the NHS cannot wait forever,’ he added.
But he disappointed Unison, the largest health union, by adding that it was for local employers ‘to decide whether or not they choose to continue to follow national pay and conditions of service’.
Unison head of health Christina McAnea said: ‘It is looking increasingly unlikely that we will reach a national deal on terms and conditions unless the South West cartel gets back round the table.
She added that it was employers who needed to be ‘creative and brave’ to bring such ‘rogue employers’ back into line.
Among changes proposed by NHS Employers are that progression through all pay points would be conditional on employees meeting locally determined performance standards, and that employers would be able set pay outside national scales for senior posts.
They also propose to stop paying more than basic salary to staff absent on sick leave.
The South West Pay Terms and Conditions Consortium published two documents last month that discussed 28 ways in which NHS pay, terms and conditions might be changed in the region, but specifically avoided firm proposals or recommendations.
Its chair Chris Bown said that the region’s trusts were ‘fully supportive of the national negotiations… we believe we can and should work in the background as these discussions continue to give us the best opportunity to be sustainable organisations in the years ahead’.
He said some 6,000 jobs might be safeguarded by changed pay, terms and conditions.