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No pay rise unless unions agree to new contract talks, says DH

Any pay rise for NHS staff should be deferred until unions have agreed to discuss how the Agenda for Change contract can be further watered down to make it more affordable for cash-strapped trusts, the Department of Health has said.

It has called on the NHS pay review body, which makes recommendations annually on basic pay, to tie any wage increase to further changes to the national Agenda for Change contract, and also remuneration for doctors and dentists.

The move would mean a pay freeze during the 2014-15 financial year, which starts next April, with no guarantee of a wage rise in 2015-16.

It is little more than six months since a deal was struck by employers and unions to make some changes to Agenda for Change. However, many trusts have claimed it did not go far enough.

The DH has acted on these claims, saying unions and employers need to get back round the negotiating table and agree more changes to the contract. A basic pay increase should “be made dependent” on progress in these talks, it said.

The department said both sides would be “invited to report on progress in their evidence [to the review body] next year, effectively deferring any award” until April 2015.

In its submission to the pay review body, the DH said: “At the very simple level, employers can either pay fewer staff more, or more staff less. Increasing demand means employers need staff to improve performance and productivity.

“Careful and prudent management of the NHS pay bill is critical if we are to maintain the right number of front-line staff with the right skills,” it added. “We believe more affordable employment contracts can help deliver better care and improve job security.”

But Christina McAnea, head of health at Unison and joint chair of the NHS Staff Council, said: “What they [the DH] have done is inflammatory. They must have known how unions would react.”

As reported by Nursing Times last week, unions have told the review body that staff deserve at least a 1% pay rise, while NHS Employers has argued for a pay freeze.

Ms McAnea said: “We are not going to negotiate while a gun is held to our head for a paltry 1% pay rise – our members will not react well to that.”

She said unions had previously shown they were willing to discuss changes to terms and conditions, but the government and employers were now “trying to scare us back around the negotiating table”.

Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “It is completely unfair to say a pay increase of just 1%, following years of real-terms pay cuts, will prevent employers from recruiting more nurses and put patient safety at risk.

“To demand further changes to the national pay framework before a pay increase can even be considered is unhelpful, particularly when changes linking performance and pay have only recently been agreed and employers have barely started to implement them.”

He added: “Another year of pay freezes for frontline staff sends the message that their contribution is not valued while putting staff under even more pressure, which is bad for patient care.”

The average nurse has seen earnings increase 6.7% since 2009 but inflation has risen by at least 13% over the same period, resulting a real-terms pay cut.

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Readers' comments (26)

  • Nurses. Don't stand for this. These people are thugs and they will never stop taking from you unless you take action.

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  • I am currently a band 6 sister in itu, we have band 6 staff nurses who are getting the same wages as me but do not have the same responsibility as myself, I have no problem with them having band 6 as I feel it is right in a highly specialized area to recognise skills etc, but is it is not fair to expect me to preform at a higher level at the same band, is there anyone else out there in the same position?
    We have been refused upgrading by a panel, but now our junior band 5s are demanding a6 as they say they do the same job!

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  • Hmm no payrise likely until 2015 at the earliest. Anyone got any idea what might be happening in 2015 where the Government might just start trumpeting "We've just given all hardworking NHS staff an inflation busting payrise"........?

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  • Anonymous | 4-Oct-2013 12:06 pm

    This is very common amongst all grades. Basically there are a huge amount of staff in every band working to at least the level and responsibility of a band higher. It is the result of job regrading and down banding which we have all tolerated, as we will tolerate this next attack on our terms and conditions.

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  • Time for industrial action...

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  • Well, shafted every way then......

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  • michael stone

    I'm not being bothered to research this one - however, we read above:

    'In its submission to the pay review body, the DH said'

    That rather implies, that the pay review body is NOT directly controlled by the DH (probably the goverment arranged that) - this is just the DH telling 'something not the DH' what to do. It is amazing, how often 'telling something not us, what to do', crops up.

    Whether the DH can 'arm twist' here, is a more subtle question, of course.

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  • Soon we will all be on zero hour contracts or on self employed then we'd have to pay our own NI and tax and no holiday pay. Or maybe they might make those on job seekers do the work instead then they would be getting something for nothing.

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  • What I think about this is not printable, and would get me banned from this website. Every year they screw us down, but this is just awful. Industrial action is the only way forward; not letting them whittle away more every year until we have nothing left.

    Absolute arse----s

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  • I think you could call this blackmail!

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  • I dont know how nurses managed 6.7% since 2009 as most public sector staff have had freezes for nearly four years. Ignoring pay rise history the starting point should be to compensate for the effects of inflation which is CPI 2.7% although RPI (3.3%) would be closer to most peoples' experience. If Hunt wants concessions on T&C's he needs to put more on the table.
    "For hardworking people"? at the Tory conference emblazoned on banners that have been long since symbolically torn down and stuffed in Manchester waste bins.

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  • The NZNO has always been a striking union, and, despite the usual headlines that come out whenever strike action has been negotiated, NZ nurses remain the most trusted professionals in their country. The UK unions need to galvanise the workforce; not the other way round - most nurses these days are completely apathetic because of years of learned helplessness: no wonder only 16% bothered to vote in the last RCN vote about strike action.

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  • 33 years ago when I qualified as a nurse I never thought I would say this but I'm ready to strike

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  • Anonymous | 4-Oct-2013 7:31 pm

    Just think. If you and the rest of the nursing professsion had acted earlier, we probably wouldn't be in the mess we're in now. It is a pity we have to look to our Antipodean colleagues for examples of how to protect patients and the nursing profession by standing up to bullies who tried to undermine nurses.

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  • No pay rise would be easier to swallow if everything else also get frozen in price and we have the right amount of staff on every shift.
    I can hardly afford to ride on the train, supermarket goods are not cheap. Don't talk about gas and electricity.
    Every shift I work is understaffed. I do the work of two people, but get one small pay.

    The unions must wake up and do some work, and nurses need to come together.

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  • The government quote that nurses are getting a pay rise with their increments. I have been in the NHS for over 40yrs and the only pay rise I, and others like me, get is from an annual rise.
    Many staff are opting to take their pensions earlier than they had hoped due to the changes imposed. I don't blame them in the least, but that will cost the NHS a lot in the short term. The government aren't admitting forcing staff into that situation. They seem to forget too that we have paid a substantial amount of our salaries to get a decent pension

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  • If or when strikes become more effective, the laws will change and a no-strike policy would be implemented like with the police.

    Excellent care, requires enough skilled and experienced front-line staff and needs investment, development, support and resources. All of this is expensive and costs money. Front-line services are made up of front-line staff.
    We keep hearing that politicians, bankers, business entrepreneurs, etc requires competitive remuneration to do their job; so do skilled nurses. Otherwise people will choose to work elsewhere, or not train as nurses or leave nursing altogether.

    An increment increase, only for those who could get one; is NOT an increase in pay bands. Any rises so far has been well behind cost of living rises.
    It feel like some of the public have been confused, like with most other government propaganda. Pay peanuts...

    Privatisation will cost tax payers more money to fund health + social care, while directors and shareholders cream off the profits. Staff who could leave would probably be more inclined to do so. If the government cares so much, they can volunteer their time to help local services and give back to community.

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  • andy | 6-Oct-2013 4:42 pm

    "If or when strikes become more effective, the laws will change and a no-strike policy would be implemented like with the police."

    Only if the workforce continues to be used as a giant carpet and allows it to happen. Given that nurses show no appetite whatsoever for any kind of resistance, I doubt that it will ever be necessary to implement a no-strike policy for nurses. They seem to do the government's job on this matter.

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  • Anonymous | 7-Oct-2013 0:12 am

    Sounds likely. Most nurses continue to work through their breaks, passed finish times to complete paperwork, burn out due to stress, tiredness, and sickness, and continue to receive lower pay relative to historically male dominated professions. Now also have to pay more into pension contributions and retire later as women generally live longer than men.
    When patients suffers or dies, it will be the nurses' fault as they're the ones around to be complained at. Its nurses who have to improve or lose their registration.
    The government can't lose either way, whoever elected, and their policies looks similar. Still people appear to do nothing about it, aren't voting, aren't leaving, not striking or changing jobs. Except those that have lost their registration or have retired.
    It sounds like institutional abuse of staff has paralysed the care system. Some patients will be lucky to receive 10 minutes of care in an hour.

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  • I wonder if all ministers etc and all the lacky's in central government as well as bosses in NHS trusts and those in NMC will be subject to same pay freeze as nurses - I think not!
    I'm a nurse on top band 5 and although I'm constantly in debt due to rising interest rates but I can just about manage, I would love a rise but accept the current reality that I will not get one and why.
    In the current financial climate its knock on effects of which we see all over Europe is great cause for concern, we cannot continue to spend what we don't have nor can we afford to repeatedly bail out other countries or send aid to other countries no matter how distressing their situation until we get our own house in order, robbing Peter to pay Paul never served any useful purpose.
    While a huge majority of public sector workers are facing year on year pay freezes lets remember some workers in the private sector are on minimum wage and don't even have job security, or the benefit of decent sick pay when unable to work regardless of how serious an illness/injury they have (such as my husband).
    We need to look back on austerity measures WW2 during mass shortage/financial and personal crisis to see how people pulled together to help one another (with some exceptions who were out to line their pockets), we should be thankful we are not facing that level of shortage. The UK in billions of pounds in debt and as a nation we need to adopt a new approach and realise only by everyone king sacrifices and pulling together in the same direction can we emerge victorious.
    However in order to lead successfully our government needs to start at the top and freeze pay (bonuses etc) across the board starting at top level with themselves and work down through all government levels before demanding that the majority of public sector workers agree to do the same.
    In order to gain respect they need to lead by example not force freezes by bullying tactics while the unions also need to realise that sometimes they cannot force the issue to get what they want and must learn to compromise.

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