Southend University Hospital Foundation Trust has held back a £250 pay rise for low paid staff in a plan to save over £400,000.
While most NHS staff salaries are frozen, national negotiators had agreed that those earning less than £21,000 a year would receive a £250 pay rise.
But Southend foundation trust is not part of the national Agenda for Change agreement, so is able to negotiate staff pay locally and has opted not to pass on the pay rise for the lowest grades.
It is the only foundation trust to have so far used its right to opt out of Agenda for Change through staff ballot. Previously it has usually followed closely, or even bettered, national pay awards.
However, as part of £9.1m of “non-recurring” savings to be made this year, documents submitted by Southend to the foundation trust regulator Monitor said £412,000 would be saved from “not funding pay award”. It is thought the move will affect more than 1,600 staff including healthcare assistants.
The move appears to confirm fears previously raised by unions about the dangers of allowing trusts to break away from Agenda for Change.
Royal College of Nursing officer for Essex Mike Kavanagh said: “They are refusing to give what is a very small raise to the lowest paid staff. It is asking the lowest paid staff to subsidise the service, that’s completely wrong.”
The trust has acknowledged that its decision could impact on the recruitment and retention of staff.
Trust documents state: “Decisions [about staff pay and conditions] made locally could impact on recruitment and retention if the actions that the trust takes appear to disadvantage staff to a greater extent than national pay settlements”.
A spokeswoman for the trust said: “The year’s pay increments were fully funded and paid to staff. Following extensive consultation with staff and staffside unions the Trust did not pay the inflation increase so as to minimise the need for redundancies arising from financial pressures.
“Under Southend’s local terms and conditions, staff receive a ‘Gainshare’ annual reward if annual performance and quality targets are met, which is not paid to very senior managers. Staff received this unique payment this year as they did in previous years. 95 per cent of staff voted to be employed under the Trust’s local terms and conditions.”