There are increasing signs the national pay framework could fracture after a North East trust became the latest to announce plans to break with Agenda for Change.
The move, condemned by unions, comes as five other trusts in the same region publicly declared their support for the national framework but a consortium of trusts in the South West is continuing to press on with its aim to reduce terms and conditions.
North Tees and Hartlepool Foundation Trust has revealed plans to dismiss 5,542 staff and re-employ them on a new contract in order to stop them receiving unsocial hours sick pay.
The FT said sickness absence – excluding agency costs – cost the trust nearly £6m each year, of which sick pay enhancements made up around £400,000 per annum.
The move represents a further sign of the tension among trusts over the delay in a national deal, which has already led to the formation of the South West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium.
North Tees and Hartlepool Trust director of human resources Clare Curran said the trust supported a national deal but was “growing increasingly frustrated and we feel we cannot wait for a national resolution”.
She added: “It simply doesn’t make sense to pay staff unsocial hours enhancements when they haven’t worked unsocial hours.”
Christina McAnea, head of health at Unison, said she was “astounded” at the “extreme and drastic” action of the North Tees trust, adding that workers there would be advised not to sign anything.
She said: “We are trying not to let a handful of rogue employers threaten the negotiations but at the end of the day if more trusts do this it comes to a point where it will call into question their [employers] ability to negotiate in good faith.”
Royal College of Nursing regional director Glenn Turp accused the FT of “bullying and intimidating the workforce”.
He said: “This is an incredibly confrontational approach, particularly as national negotiations are still continuing. It is almost as if they are deliberately trying to undermine national negotiations.”
Meanwhile, Nursing Times has learnt that five other foundation trusts in the north have all publicly committed themselves to Agenda for Change and have backed the national talks.
Northumbria Healthcare, Gateshead Health, South Tyneside, Newcastle Hospitals and Cumbria Partnership have all said they have no plans to break with the national framework.