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Nursing unions issue warning over contract imposition


Nursing unions have warned that the government’s imposition of a contract on junior doctors sets a “worrying precedent” for other parts of the NHS workforce.

Yesterday health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that the government would impose a new contract on junior doctors in England, after the government’s chief negotiator Sir David Dalton said there was “no real prospect” of a deal with the British Medical Association.

“Unions can’t have faith in any future negotiations if ministers just choose to impose what they want, when they want”

Dave Prentis 

The move, which sparked widespread condemnation from healthcare unions, follows nearly three years of talks between the two sides over changes to unsocial hours pay arrangements and, more recently, a government election pledge to make the NHS a “truly seven-day service”.

Mr Hunt said: “The definition of a negotiation is a discussion where both sides demonstrate flexibility and compromise on their original objectives, and the BMA ultimately proved unwilling to do this.

“In such a situation any government must do what is right for both patients and doctors,” he said in a statement to the Commons.

“RCN members are increasingly anxious that there will now be moves to take their unsocial hours payments away as well”

Josie Irwin 

Mr Hunt added that premium pay for Saturdays in the new junior doctors’ contract was “higher on average than that available to nurses, midwives, paramedics and most other clinical staff”.

But Unison general secretary Dave Prentis described the move to impose the contract on junior doctors as a “disaster for NHS industrial relations”.

“Unions can’t have faith in any future negotiations if ministers just choose to impose what they want, when they want,” he said.

Josie Irwin, head of employment relations at the Royal College of Nursing, warned that the imposition of the junior doctor contract set “a worrying precedent”.

“Like junior doctors, most nurses are already working seven days a week, and they agree that patient care on Saturday and Sunday should be the same as on a Tuesday,” she said.

Jeremy hunt new website

Jeremy hunt new website

Jeremy Hunt 

Ms Irwin noted that nurses’ pay had fallen 14% in “real terms” from 2010-15 and, as a result, many relied on their unsocial hours payments to “make ends meet”.

“Our members are increasingly anxious that there will now be moves to take their unsocial hours payments away as well,” she said.

In addition, the Royal College of Midwives said it was “disappointed that the secretary of state without doubt intent on making major cuts to unsocial hour’s payments”.

Jon Skewes director for communications, policy and employment relations at the RCM, said: “Imposing contracts without further negotiation will further sever the little trust left between Jeremy Hunt and hardworking healthcare staff.”

He noted that the RCM had given the independent pay review body “extensive evidence” in July that unsocial hour’s payments were necessary to the existing performance of seven days services.

“The RCM believes that you can’t extend services elsewhere in the NHS by undermining hard working junior doctors, midwives and many other healthcare workers,” he said.

The new junior doctors’ contract will include

  • deliver a 13.5% basic pay rise for junior doctors and additional pay premiums for doctors who work one in four weekends or more
  • mean pay for night shifts covering 9pm-7am, and starting at 5pm on Saturdays and all day Sundays
  • include a number of restrictions on consecutive days and nights doctors will be rostered to work

Readers' comments (10)

  • If we threaten too much local pay will be the result. BMA incompetence is the key cause of this. Fancy having a 13% basic pay rise imposed upon you!

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  • When I started nursing in 1962 we worked a 42 hr week. This meant we had to work on a Saturday morning. This was all at basic pay.
    How many nurses now have to endure split shifts. I worked a 2-5 split shift meaning I had to stay at the hospital nurses home in the afternoon as it was too far to go home! Hours are better now but beware he is trying to turn back the clock.

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  • For nurses and midwives health care assistants it is about losing unsocial hours payments whilst basically losing thousands in what should have been keeping pay in line with inflation - the 13% pay rise IF repeated to all staff will NOT cover that let alone the pay cuts in unsocial hours payments !! We work Xmas day and all hours 365 days a year - we should receive more pay than if working 9/5 mon to fri - end if story - remember the MPs payrise to themselves !!!!!!!!! Appalling -

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  • Get out of the NHS while you can. Work's flexible more pay less stress without bullying from managers.

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  • The problem is this...

    We should have supported the Junior Doctors in their fight which is right, proper and considered when we compare this with the greed, malpractice and sheer incompetence of the political classes

    We should have supported the Junior Doctors because they represent the bastion that we should have rallied around to protect staff and their ever worsening circumstances in the NHS

    We should have supported the Junior Doctors in their struggle to protect further destruction of morale and in related fashion the very fabric of the NHS

    We should have supported the Junior Doctors as they will come for us next - they will take money out of our pockets, roof from over our heads and food out of our children's mouths whilst bolstering their pockets through privatisation and cuts to taxation that should be gladly paid

    Martin Niemoller stated this
    "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.
    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew."
    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me"

    If we do not stand together divided we will fall apart as individuals with no voice

    The only ones amongst us who have had the "chutzpah" to fight alongside the Doctors have been our students and this should shame us in the same way as when we turn away when something happens or become immune or tired to care because we have become used to it

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  • Bankers to get five billion pounds and we're fighting for pennies-

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  • Bankers to get five billion pounds and we're fighting for pennies

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  • Anyone thinking that the Junior Doctors are striking over a proposed pay increase, has clearly not understood the situation. By redefining unsocial hours and forcing doctors to work longer hours, the Government is effectively imposing a pay cut which the BMA has calculated will be between 15%-30%. This is on top of years of pay freezes. In addition, by removing financial penalties there will be no safeguards in hours that doctors are made to work by hospital trusts. I don't want that for my doctor colleagues and I don't want that for my Nurse colleagues (because you'd better believe that we'll be next). I certainly don't want it for the NHS. That is what the Junior doctors are fighting for and they deserve our full support.

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  • I am not sure why the Unions are saying this now? It was obvious from the start that if the junior Dr's lose then the rest of the NHS staff would also have new contracts and this has now set a precedent for imposition not negotiation although this was a foregone conclusion anyway. Allowing the junior Dr's to have to strike was in fact allowed by the Government to try to alienate the public against Dr's. Luckily this did not work and it backfired hence JH having to impose what they wanted anyway. They think we are so stupid that we cannot see through their games playing. You only have to see the 'debates' in Parliament to see that many of the MP's just show off trying to be clever rather than really supporting the people of the Nation. (Not all of them please note.) As it is, the Trusts appear to manage this way anyway. Any staff involvement is tokenistic as is the so called wellbeing for staff, as the decisions are made by a few people and then decreed to the rest of the staff whether sensible or not. Other things introduced are just a tick box exercise and most of the time not believed in. As the top management are allowed to negotiate their pay and contracts, including overinflated salaries, annual bonuses, perks and 'silence' clauses in return for covering up why for instance, CEO's leave i.e. to spend more time with their family when actually they resign before some disaster usually in failed care/ patient death hits, then imposition on the masses is governmental bullying. The junior Dr's contract is really a money saving exercise and 7 day working with the same number of staff is not working already! Standards are dropping all the time because of it.

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  • Totally predictable from the outset. Consultants and nurses are the next under threat! Why didn't punt concentrate on the gp contracts instead which seem the biggest source of all the problems and the attract more to the specialty as well as a and e which is also experiencing a rapid drain.

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