Sixteen trusts in the south west are seeking to move away from Agenda for Change and have formed a consortium to lead regional negotiation on pay, terms and conditions.
Nursing Times understands only South Devon Healthcare Trust, Somerset Community Health and Torbay and Southern Devon Health and Care Trust have decided not to join the group, described by unions as a “cartel”, while the region’s mental health trusts are keeping their position under review.
Taunton and Somerset Foundation Trust, Royal United Hospital Bath Trust and Gloucestershire Hospitals Foundation Trust have already approached staff.
Unison regional head of health Simon Newell told Nursing Times the unions had told management they were not prepared to discuss terms and conditions. He said issues on the table included unsocial hours payments, elements of sick pay and holiday pay, all of which come under the national pay agreement Agenda for Change.
More than 40 staff side representatives from the region’s NHS trusts, foundation trusts and seven social enterprises met in Bristol today to discuss their approach to the plans. In a press release following the meeting they described the consortium as a “pay cartel”.
Chair of the joint unions health officers forum for the south west Dorothy Fogg said: “This group of employers are planning to abandon nationally agreed pay and conditions in the South West region.
“This is not an issue about public sector pay; the knock on effects will have a devastating impact of the regional economy, especially the private sector, at a time when the economy needs strengthening not weakening.”
In his budget speech chancellor George Osborne announced plans to introduce local pay in the public sector to make salaries more reflective of cost of living.
The Department of Health has proposed retaining national pay agreement but expanding the areas that receive recieving a weighting to take account of more expensive living costs. This would be done by holding down pay in areas with a lower cost of living.
Foundation trusts have been able to opt out of Agenda for Change since their creation but only Southend Univeristy Hospital Foundation Trust has ever done so.
The initiative has been led by the trusts not the strategic health authority. A spokeswoman for NHS South of England said the authority was aware of the plans.
She said: “We are aware that some employers are considering working more collaboratively in order to ensure that their pay frameworks represent best value for money… the Strategic Health Authority continues to work with employers and trades unions in applying national terms and conditions where employers do not have the freedom to develop their own.”