GMB is alone among NHS trade unions in advising members to reject the NHS Employers pay offer, but while officially all other unions are backing the deal, many of their members have reservations.
GMB is a general union, with significant membership in the NHS, including ambulance service trusts, and it was a GMB pay conference, consisting of NHS workers from GMBs regions that made the unanimous decision not to recommend the pay offer.
“GMB is recommending to members that they vote to reject this offer”
When Agenda for Change was first agreed over 13 years ago, it was far from perfect.
There was unfinished business including pay bands that were too long, overlaps between bands, and points which were too close together. These issues have been made worse by eight years of pay restraint.
The pay deal is rather complicated and its impact will vary from individual to individual.
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The complications are already causing confusion among NHS staff, and many staff are asking why there are such wide differences between increases.
GMB is recommending to members that they vote to reject this offer. The reasons are quite clear:
While some of the pay increases for new staff will appear attractive for some roles, experienced, existing staff on the top of their pay bands will see increase over three years below the expected level of inflation.
GMB does not believe that the pay of experienced staff should be held back to allow NHS trusts to recruit new staff.
“When Agenda for Change was first agreed over 13 years ago, it was far from perfect”
The pay increase for those on the top points of their pay bands is also only 6.5% over three years, while inflation is forecast to be 9.3% or higher. The increase is even lower for those on the top pay points in the higher grades.
In addition, the proposals end the payment of unsocial hours payments during sick leave for all staff – the equivalent of a fine for being off sick.
They would also see the ending automatic annual increments, with staff staying on the same point for between two and five years, and then having to justify their progress to the new point.
Many GMB activists and members are concerned that cash strapped departments and NHS trusts will find ways of preventing staff from progression and a way of saving money and contributing to deficit reduction.
The increase for Higher Cost Area Supplements is pegged to the increase of the top pay point, e.g. 2018 3%, 2019 1.7%, 2020 1.67% – less than predicted inflation, which is often higher in HCAS areas anyway.
“The framework is designed to speed up recruitment at the expense of experienced nurses”
There are other elements of the deal which don’t affect nursing staff, but overall it appears that the framework is designed to speed up recruitment into the NHS, at the expense of experienced nurses on or near the top of their pay bands.
If the government and the employers were serious about recruitment and retention, they would ensure that those at the top of their pay bands got a decent pay rise, so that they stay with the NHS, and it would encourage recruitment of nurses by bringing back the bursaries.
Martin Jackson is chair of the GMB National NHS Committee and a charge nurse in a coronary care unit at Barnsley Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.