Why the NHS 'pay cuts for job security' deal is flawed and unacceptable

Ahead of Monday’s special meeting of the UNISON health service group executive, UNISON Northern regional health committee has voted to reject the proposals arising out of the ‘Chatham House’ discussions within the NHS Staff Council Executive. We believe that the NHS ‘pay cuts for job security’ deal is flawed and unacceptable for the reasons set out in the folowing analysis.

1. The deal on offer aims to:
a) Secure universal commitment to the provisions of the Agenda For Change Handbook by assurances from employers that this ‘deal’ would be the first and last diminution of the provision of the historic A4C collective agreement

b) Provide a new (to NHS England) policy of no compulsory redundancy within bands 1-6

2.The Agenda for Change Agreement

Arguably the ‘Chatham House’ deal hastens the fragmentation of the A4C agreement in two ways:

a). Firstly the proposal is England only and from 2100/12 (extended to 2012/3) will provide differential pay arrangements for members working in the four nations

b). The ‘opt-in/out’ nature of the proposal means that two tracks of negotiation may develop in England.

Those Trusts/Staff Sides which adopt the no increments/redundancy framework to deal with local budget pressures;

Those who do not and proceed to negotiate other aspects of terms and conditions and potentially pay.

This climate of varied approaches could potentially:

a) Encourage some/all NHS England employers to consider other mechanisms for pay determination given the hamstringing of the PRB process in 2010/11 ( and previously)

b) Encourage some/all NHS England employers to consider alternative mechanisms to the Staff Council for determination of terms and conditions, pay and grading (e.g. Regional)

c) Encourage the devolved Nations to adopt their own mechanisms

Rather than protect and preserve the institutions of the Pay Review Body and the Staff Council, the ’Chatham House’ proposals could accelerate the dissolution of the foundation stones of UK stability in relation to pay and conditions.

3. No Redundancy

The Chatham House proposal does not provide a failsafe guarantee of no compulsory redundancy.

The proposal seems to signal the loss of 65,000 jobs by voluntary means. The reality is that processes are in train anyway – irrespective of the Chatham House proposals – to strip out thousands of jobs through: workforce design, strict vacancy management, redeployment, skill mix reviews, voluntary severance etc.

There has been no evidence presented that an incremental freeze is required in order to balance the books.

The Chatham House proposals provide employers with an overly simplistic solution of achieving savings principally through a direct reduction of the payroll budget.

4. Taking the Government to Task

The Chatham House proposals mask the real debate which Governments, Policy Makers and the Public need to confront. It makes the life of the Con Dem Government (and others who might follow suit) less challenged by not bringing this debate to the fore.

We ask our members to suffer austerity in their pay packets and to endure increased productivity. We should be asking them as citizens, service users, and community activists, to turn outwards, not inwards, and expose the real strains on the delivery of NHS services:
(a) Costs of the internal market
(b) PFI costs
(c) Management consultancy
(d) The costs of the branded drug market.

The level of activity, quality of service is not rationally defined by Governments or providers across acute and primary care services. Without raising the prospect of ‘rationing’ the debate should be raised about demand management. Outputs and inputs vary considerably within and between nations, providers and localities.

‘Redundant’ services should be defined and catalogued by Trusts, Regions, and Nations. If there is to be retrenchment of what the NHS can deliver, politicians and employers should be held to account. Papering over the cracks by savage pay restraint is not a credible strategy.

There is little job security in the midst of: the NHS White Paper‘s aggressive outsourcing and privatisation; PFI procurement; marketisation and plurality of provision. The Chatham House proposals do not touch this hostile agenda of the Con Dem Government and NHS management.

Maria Alberts, Joel Byers, Linda Hobson, Clare Williams

From UNISON Active