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First union rejects Agenda for Change proposals

  • 16 Comments

Unite has become the first health union to reject proposals on the table to change nurses’ national pay and conditions, Nursing Times can reveal.

Officials at Unite, which represents over 100,000 NHS workers, are drawing up battle plans to resist the current bid by NHS Employers – on behalf of the government – to amend the national Agenda for Change pay framework.

If introduced the NHS Employers proposals would see nurses lose the right to automatic pay increments and instead have to meet “locally determined performance standards”, as previously reported by Nursing Times.

Pay increases for nurses at the top of their pay band would become lump-sum bonuses instead of being added to their salary. This could be taken away if they miss performance targets.

New starters at band 5 would also only be eligible for one incremental increase in their first year, instead of the current two, and sickness pay would be reduced to the basic salary level with no increase for unsocial hours work.

Unite head of health Rachael Maskill told Nursing Times that NHS Employers had not provided unions with evidence the plans would actually save money and the union feared the changes were “the thin end of the wedge”.

She said: “There is a lack of agreement that employers will hold the line and that these changes will be it. Senior managers are still taking home bonuses, yet we are being asked to consider cutting the terms and conditions of our members who have taken too much pain already.”

She said moving people out of Agenda for Change and onto spot salaries would create more work for HR departments and lead to wider discrimination.

Under the plans, NHS Employers wants a greater use of appraisals to assess performance. However – in reference to the limited success of the Knowledge and Skills Framework – Ms Maskell said eight years after Agenda for Change trusts still could not deliver appraisals for their staff.

She accepted unions needed to discuss some future amendments to Agenda for Change, but said Unite rejected the proposals currently on the table and that alternative ways of saving money should be looked at and negotiated upon.

“We should enter into proper negotiations with employers, and use that to see if we can reduce expenditure in NHS trusts without disproportionately impacting on staff,” she said.

The Royal College of Nursing and Unison have consulted their members on the proposals, but are yet to declare their position.

Unison deputy head of health Sara Gorton said: “Health workers have been consulted on the proposed amendments to Agenda for Change. The results are being analysed over the summer, ahead of further meetings with employers in the autumn.”

Gill Bellord, director of employment relations and reward for NHS Employers, said in a statement: “We very much hope a national pay agreement can be reached through the NHS staff council that is good for staff, employers and patients. This is why our proposal provides a clearer link between pay progression and performance.

“We would welcome Unite’s affirmation of the value of negotiations and the flexibility of Agenda for Change.”

The results of a joint union survey on the proposals are due to be made public in September, though the NHS staff council’s next meeting is not due till November.

Agenda for Change has been under the spotlight in recent months, as NHS trusts seek to reduce their pay bill.

A group of 19 trusts in the South West has formed a “cartel” to investigate breaking away from the national pay framework, and other regions are thought to be drawing up their own solutions.

The unions have previously stated that the South West Consortium was jeopardising national negotiations on Agenda for Change.

The RCN this week praised three trusts in the South West, which it claimed had decided not to join the consortium – the Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust, the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases Foundation Trust and South Devon Healthcare Foundation Trust.

RCN South West regional director Jeannett Martin said the union would now work with the three trusts to seek ways of making savings. She said: “All members who work at these trusts should be proud and ensure that they tell senior management that they made the right choice.”

  • 16 Comments

Readers' comments (16)

  • Pay must be on a national level with local variation for high cost areas. Local pay agreements are a step right to the bottom and must be resisted at all costs. Fighting to keep a national pay scale is the only issue in my 20 years of nursing that I would stike over, it is absoletly crucial. Nursing has to be recognised as a profession, not scorned at by ignorant people who strangely sit on the right of the political spectrum. They are trying to destroy us and bring us down with this, we are too valuable and we don't deserve it.

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  • I would agree that basic pay should be paid for sick leave and not enhancements. It is a joke, no wonder the Govt are looking to cut it back. We do ourselves no favours. I resist the move to abolish national pay but if we need to save money then giving up enhancements for sickness is in everybodies interest except those who are continually abusing the system and leave the rest of us to pick up the slack

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  • The service we provide is entitled the 'National Health Service' If we revert to local afreements the national will become local and the poorest areas will have the poorest services because nurses like many human beings will move for larger pay packets. If this was to happen we will be back to 1940 and before long to the poor house. This goverrnment and its acolites will have us from clogs to clogs in one generation

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  • I also agree in relation to getting basic pay when off sick, if you are not on duty for unsocial hours then why would you need an enhancements?

    When I think about the time, energy and anxiety that went into implementing AfC. Rewriting job descriptions, creating person specs, setting up and running panels to agree banding, dealing with appeals and disputes, writing KSF's etc etc, how expensive will it have been if they just discard it all only a few years later.
    Surely there must be a better way forward than throwing the baby out with the bathwater

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  • PS
    I know KSF's separate from AfC but they were launched at about the same time and so further complicated the AfC implementation. It was usual where I work for people to confuse the two initiatives and get very anxious about what it meant for them

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  • Whilst I am not in favour of regional pay, I do agree with the arguement on sick pay. Too many people seem to take the mick when it comes to "sickness" and yet enhancements still get paid. I worked for a Trust for over 2 years and did not receive a single appraisal. Like many, I worked hard and had no time off sick. Whilst others perform less favourably and take home more each month just because they have been qualified longer. Maybe performance related pay is the way forward? It may make us all focus on what we came into the profession to do......

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  • I agree that pay should be on a national scale. There will be a lot of publicity regarding the local increments etc, for instance about paying people more in those areas where staffing is difficult but in essence, it will become a tool to in the end pay nurses less. The nursing budget must be the biggest staffing spend in the NHS and as we do not have powerful representation or professional clout we are the most vulnerable. However, I am very keen to improve standards but not with payments or 'lack of payments' so if we have sensible people who know what nurses need to provide as a profession, well trained staff and good morale then we might get a satisfactory way forward. Agenda for change has not helped nursing as so far, I have not had any reference to it in my IPR and frankly it is it such an unwieldy document that no-one looks at it except prior to interview. Bring back Whitley!!! Unbeknownst to most of us I have recently understood that there are extra payments to encourage people to work in difficult to staff areas already!!

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  • I am total fed and tired at the way the NHS and the govenment are treating the nurses'. We are been treated as "If you like it take it, if you do not like it leave" No where apart from the third world and UK are nurses' treated in this way. We nurses' have alwys been in the frontline with patient care as our top agenda and we delivers the care no matter what has been throw at us all. It is very shameful if some bunch of pen pushers are seating down determining how our pays are to be reviewed. If we nurses' can strike like the bus, train drivers, and the doctor maybe all these rubbish would have come to some sort of speak to them first before you decide on their pay. I have this view, care for patients are going to suffer if not already with the care nurses' are de;livering these days. It is high time we all have a union that can really speak on our behalf. FULL STOP.

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  • I am totally fed and tired at the ways and manners the NHS and the govenment are treating the nurses'. We are been treated as "If you like it take it, if you do not like it leave" No where apart from the third world and UK are nurses' treated in this way. We nurses' have always been in the frontline with patient care as our top agenda and we delivers the care no matter what has been thrown at us all. It is very shameful if some bunch of pen pushers are seating down determining how our pays are to be reviewed hiding behind the Agenda for change. If we nurses' could strike like the bus/train drivers, and the doctor maybe all these rubbish would have come to some sort of speak to them first before you decide on their pay. I have this view, care for patients are going to suffer if not already with the care nurses' are de;livering these days. It is high time we all have a union that can really speak on our behalf. FULL STOP.

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  • You are being taken advantage of
    Why?
    You are nurses and you care
    You are treated like dirt and yet you care
    Your numbers are being cut and yet you care

    You Care for the patients. The Government knows you would never, ever put a patient at risk.

    Would you leave your wards and go on strike and have a patient - a mother, a father or a child suffer? You wouldn't so you are being taken advantage of.

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