NHS Employers seeks local support for new pay freeze

5 Jan 11
NHS bosses have stepped up their efforts to push through a two-year freeze on incremental pay rises for staff in return for a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies
By David Williams

6 January 2010

NHS bosses have stepped up their efforts to push through a two-year freeze on incremental pay rises for staff in return for a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies.

A letter sent yesterday to all NHS chief executives and human resources directors described the proposals as a ‘framework for local implementation’ that each employer would have to choose whether or not to adopt. It also suggested that organisations should open their books to staff to explain the financial challenges facing their organisations.

The letter is signed by Gill Bellord, director of core services at NHS Employers; Greg Allen, management side chair of the NHS Staff Council; and David Wherrett, management side chair of the NHS Staff Council Executive.

‘This is a vitally important deal for the NHS, which presents the best chance of both protecting jobs for staff and providing continuity of services for patients,’ the letter says. It goes on to call for a ‘mature debate’ on the issue.

‘If the deal fails, the reality is that there will be compulsory redundancies and some employers will still need to make changes to terms and conditions.’

The deal, first mooted in December, would mean that, on top of the freeze for all public sector salaries above £21,000, no employee would qualify for incremental pay rises normally given to reward long-serving staff. In return, it would also protect the jobs of ‘all staff’ on pay bands 1–6, ‘guaranteeing job security for 82% of all NHS staff’.

The proposals, if implemented by every employer in the NHS, would save £1.9bn.

No guarantee has been suggested for staff in pay bands 7–9, which cover salaries between £30,460 and £97,478.

Bellord said that individual organisations and their staff could agree locally whether to implement the proposals. Strategic health authorities and primary care trusts – due to be disbanded by 2012/13 and 2013/14, respectively – will be free to not adopt the plans.

She added that staff in bands 1–6 would be easier to redeploy as there were more of them and a higher turnover of vacancies.

‘This is not about cutting costs,’ she told Public Finance. ‘It’s about reducing the growth of cost pressures.’ She said the reason for the letter was to clarify the details of the offer for employers and explainwhy it was necessary. ‘When the offer became public, there was an immediate reaction to it, but not a lot of understanding.’

The move was greeted with fury from the Unite union. Karen Reay, national officer for health, expressed concern that managers were trying to side-step unions and national pay bargaining by handing the proposals to local bosses for implementation.

‘This letter has gone out without any consultation from staff side,’ Reay told PF.

‘The feeling coming through very strongly from our membership is “Don’t touch it,”… it’s ludicrous to promise no compulsory redundancies for two years at a time of significant change.

‘We’re already seeing notices of compulsory redundancy coming through.’

Unions are set to respond formally to the proposals on January 20.

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