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Government hands unions ultimatum over negotiations on pay freeze

Jeremy Hunt has suggested the government would be willing to drop its call for a freeze on incremental pay progression if unions will agree other measures that “achieve the same level of savings”, according to a letter to unions and the NHS Employers organisation.

In the letter, sent to NHS staff council representatives, the health secretary reveals a desire for wider reform of contracts covering both the non-medical workforce under the Agenda for Change framework and also doctors.

The government has publicly offered unions the chance of a permanent pay rise in exchange for a freeze on incremental pay for Agenda for Change staff in 2015-16, after it rejected recommendations from the NHS Pay Review Bodies last week.

But the health secretary’s letter goes further, saying the government “would be prepared to agree other measures that would achieve the same level of savings to protect frontline staff numbers and which would reinforce the principle of progression for performance and support the development of seven day services”.

This could allow employers to open up talks on other areas including unsocial hours premia, overtime pay, sick pay or weekend working.

Mr Hunt said his “door was open” to unions agreeing alternative savings, but added that he wanted a reply by 9 April.

He said any agreement on pay, terms and conditions would need to include the British Medical Association, which has traditionally negotiated terms for doctors separately to Agenda for Change unions.

“It is incumbent on staff and employer representatives to leave no stone unturned in finding a way forward in the interests of patients,” he wrote.

He added that talks could consider “our proposal for an increment swap alongside any other options for delivering the savings needed.”

Earlier this month, the government rejected a 1% cost of living pay rise for all staff in 2014-15. Only those at the top of their pay band will receive the increase and it will be non-consolidated, meaning it is not permanent or pensionable.

Employees eligible for incremental pay increases will receive their increment but will not get the 1% cost of living rise. Ministers claim the deal, which will be repeated in 2015-16, will save £200m each year and protect frontline jobs.

In his letter, Mr Hunt said the imposed deal built on the Agenda for Change agreement made by unions in 2013, which linked incremental pay rises more closely to performance.

“I would like to hear back in three weeks by 9 April whether both sides feel it will be possible to reach an agreement that makes the same savings as the decision I announced last week, but that will enable all staff to receive a 1% consolidated pay rise over each of the next two years,” he wrote in the letter seen by Nursing Times’ sister title HSJ, but which has not been made public.

Negotiations are already underway on both junior doctor and medical consultant contracts but Agenda for Change unions reacted angrily to the pay deal last week with Unison, Unite and the GMB unions saying they would consult members over industrial action.

Christina McAnea, staff side chair of the NHS Staff Council, has previously said unions would not negotiate “while a gun is held to our head for a paltry 1% pay rise.”


Readers' comments (23)

  • I wonder how long Mr Hunt plans to continue his absurd posturing for, until it becomes clear that 1%, as the pay review body recommended, is not something that gives any realistic room for negotiation?

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  • It's outrageous enough that the pay rise for those on top of their band is only a derisory 1 percent, but to not make it pensionable is stupid and pointless. I'm sure that all of Hunt's pay rise is pensionable.

    If we are not very careful, we will lose our unsocial hours pay too which is worth thousands to each nurse that does nights and weekends. Our pay would be totally pathetic without that.

    With the pension contributions going up again, the NMC fee likely to rise to £120 and the RCN withdrawing the indemnity cover for a lot of us it feels like we are getting screwed left, right and centre.

    Also, my trust is doubling the cost of car parking from the 1st of April, so we have that to look forward to as well. How joyful!

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  • hunt...11% pay rise
    nhs staff...1% maybe

    "were all in this together"

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  • Anonymous | 27-Mar-2014 10:06 am

    wrong way round!

    I suppose one could even be gracious and split it 50:50!

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  • We need to follow the lead from the teachers. The government is morally bankrupt.

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  • Until those of you in England who returned these clowns to government waken up things wont change. You have a short memory of how Thatcher and her henchmen saw us as an easy target for all those years. Unfortunately you are now watching as they give themselves an 11% pay rise, cut the top tax tier for the richest, increase nurses pensions contributions, raise our retirement age and slash our wages in real terms.
    From the rest of the UK, thanks for nothing

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  • re peedoffnurse

    well said

    the only way forward is to get rid of these eton idiots next year...they have not got a clue about living in the real world

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  • this is what the tories have in store for our nhs

    The recent speech by the government plant in the Care Quality Commission, David Prior, has called for NHS Trusts who have fallen into financial difficulty to be taken over by European or American ‘Hospital Chains’.

    Such a move would present new opportunities to Circle Health, the first company to takeover the running of a NHS hospital and a company that is embedded into the highest areas of government influence. Not only is a former Circle employee writing the health policy for No10, but another of their former staff is health adviser to Jeremy Hunt. If you add the donations ending up in the local office of the policy unit head, then you could say No10 is now the House of Circle.

    A secret plan to hand over NHS hospitals to foreign companies was initially exposed by the transparency campaigners, Spinwatch in 2011. A Freedom of Information release unearthed communications between management consultancy firm McKinsey and the Department of Health, which revealed how over 20 NHS hospitals should be taken over by foreign firms. This process should be done with a “mindset of one at a time…because of various political constraints associated with privatisation.”

    In David Prior’s speech made at a health seminar in London last week, the former Conservative Chief Executive cited the private hospital company, Circle, who took over the running of Hitchingbrooke hospital back in 2011, as being a model that could be followed for such a process.

    This sentiment was one that was shared by fellow Conservative MP Mark Simmonds who landed his role as strategic adviser to Circle in December 2010. This new position was taken up just five months after he had finished his role as Shadow Health Secretary. The blog ‘NHS Vault’ revealed that within a report written by the Hitchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust Chief Executive's & Franchise Representatives, Simmonds visited the hospital in July 2012 and told those in attendance, “In this hospital you can change the way the NHS works, in my view for the better, you are at the frontier of the way healthcare is going to be provided in the future.”

    The support of Circle within government is also supported by their presence in the heart of government policy. Nick Seddon, is a former Head of Communications for Circle, who moved to the free market think tank Reform as deputy director. Reform are heavily funded by private healthcare, which includes private hospital groups.

    Whilst at Reform, Seddon was highly active lobbying alongside private healthcare to ensure competition remained int he Health and Social care bill. In addition, he called for an increase in private companies taking over NHS hospitals, which was part of a campaign by Reform backed by the Telegraph who helped promote Circle's model. David Cameron, who had said lobbying would be the 'next big scandal' decided to hand a healthcare lobbyist a role in the health policy unit at No10.

    This is not the only influence Circle have in the echelons of government health policy. Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt chose to hire Christina Robinson, another former Head of Communications at Circle as his special adviser.

    The direction of where health policy is going couldn’t be clearer, but it isn’t just there where Circle has representation in government policy.


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  • tinkerbell

    'The demands of the competitive market are remorseless: reduce the cost of labour; privatise everything; remove protection from working people, and maintain a pool of unemployed to discipline those lucky enough to have a job. Trade unions are to be obstructed while the wealthy are courted in the hope that they will find a pliant, flexible workforce that is easy to exploit'. - Ken Loach, journalist.

    We are that workforce.

    Ken I agree.

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  • This needs to be handled very carefully as what Hunt is really doing here is setting out the stall for regional pay, local pay, non-AFC pay and goodness knows what else.

    What Hunt proposes is a lose lose for all NHS staff so we've got a clear choice: put up or shut up!

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  • all you nurses will just put up with it all just like the pensions saga

    so unless we have the RCN unison gmb and unite together then forget it

    i wont hold my breath!!

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  • STRIKE!!! Or just let it happen, roll over, have a good whinge, let them take our pensions to pay bankers bonuses, work for free etc, etc.

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  • just work for free it would save a lot of argument and fret. after all it is nursing, and which is supposed to be a compassionate and caring profession. Some fairy godmother will take care of all the rest like supporting you and your family and paying the mortgage!

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  • yep great idea lets give away our holiday entitlement, unsocial hours payments, sick pay etc for 1%

    shove it where the sun does not shine hunt!

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  • we know this clown understands what incremental pay is...that is you are worth the top of the band for that role..but are progressing as your skills and knowlwdge get better

    so the nhs get you on the cheap until you reach the top

    hunt knows this...he just tells the press that oh look all these nhs workers are getting an automatice 3% pay rise every year..why should they get another 1%..and the moronic masses out there believe this shite!

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  • tinkerbell

    Hunt looks a bit haggard to me in the above photo and where are his teeth, did he forget to put them in? Is it all getting too much for him? Scary vampire, perhaps blood was in short supply last night and he wasn't able to feast on as many unfortunates, patients and nurses as required, because everyone's so malnourished in the new 'big society'.

    What happens when your down to your last pound of flesh and there's only bone left?

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  • tinkerbell

    'bugger off' a restrained response from his colleague I think, but none the less I understand his sentiment.

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  • tinkerbell

    I've had enough of em all. What are labour doing about any of this, sweet FA. Today I have joined the NHA Party. I urge those concerned to save OUR NHS to join also.

    I phoned my union UNITE today and asked what action they are taking on behalf of their members, the receptionist said 'erm' and put me through to an answering machine. So much for any of the unions to be honest.

    So much for labour, lib dems (spit on em, and I don't even spit normally)
    and the icing on the cake, the most corrupt party of most recent history, ConDem nasty party.

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  • tinkerbell

    (words by Paul Simon) American Tune.
    'Many's the time I've been mistaken, and many times confused
    And I've often felt forsaken, and certainly misused.
    But it's all right, it's all right, I'm just weary to my bones
    Still, you don't expect to be bright and Bon Vivant
    So far away from home, so far away from home.
    I don't know a soul who's not been battered
    Don't have a friend who feels at ease
    Don't know a dream that's not been shattered
    Or driven to it's knees.
    But it's all right, all right, We've lived so well so long
    Still, when I think of the road we're traveling on,
    I wonder what went wrong, can't help but wonder what went wrong.
    Still tomorrows gonna be another working day'.

    To all my colleagues out there, decent, hard working staff, who care deeply about what happens to the patient, we will not be beaten, tomorrows gonna be another working day and we will keep on keeping on. It ain't over till it's over!

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  • I give up giving a hoot! Feels good to be bribed by this moron! Why the government don't just call for our pay to stop and we have to work voluntary I don't know. I actually believe they could do that because I don't see any nurses that I either work with or am friends with doing anything about (if they even know about it). What sort of profession have I got myself into?

    Now to look for other jobs outside of healthcare... Or to get my partner to agree to a move to Australia or USA.

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