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Pay 'cartel' hires lawyers to help draw up breakaway plans


The South West Pay Consortium has appointed a leading law firm to advise it on plans to amend staff pay, terms and conditions.

The move is a further sign the group of 20 NHS trusts is not backing down on regional plans to break with the Agenda for Change national pay framework.

Among the changes under consideration by the consortium are increases in working hours, reduction in sick pay, and the end of automatic incremental pay rises.

The consortium, described as a “pay cartel” by unions, has appointed Bevan Brittan LLP to review its plans ahead of the production of a full business case, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2012. The firm is the largest specialist provider of legal services to the public sector.

Julian Hoskins, partner and head of employment at Bevan Brittan, said: “If the proposals on which we are now advising proceed, they could also be the first substantial [split] from the national terms and conditions since they were implemented in 2004.”

The consortium said it had hired the firm because it wanted “fit for purpose” terms and conditions which will allow services to remain sustainable and give greater job security to staff.

Unions have repeatedly said the cartel is undermining national talks with NHS Employers, which negotiates on behalf of NHS trusts and the government.

The union staff-side council has warned, seemly to no avail, that it will walk away from the national talks if members of the consortium do not suspend their action.

A Unison spokesman said: “Discussions are on-going behind the scenes and we still hope that the consortium will put its plans on hold to allow national negotiations to continue.”

Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing last week also accused City Hospitals Sunderland Foundation Trust of attempting to break away from Agenda for Change.

The RCN said the trust planned to freeze pay increments for staff that do not receive an annual appraisal or complete certain training modules.


Readers' comments (22)

  • The South West Pay Consortium leadership knows that it is dealing with ineffective and incompetent staff-side representation.

    Until Trade Unions and Professional organisations recognise that the game has changed they will lose the debate.

    This "cartel" is the evil face of "modern management".

    This cartel is not concerned with the well-being of staff or patients. The "cartel" believe they will win the argument!

    They are convinced that the imposition of radically changed terms and conditions of service. on the staff which these "Trusts" employ, can be achieved.

    Weasel words from staff side representatives about leaving the National Discussion is music to the cartels ears! Such threats are as meaningless as they are empty ! Such a pathetic staff side response justifies the cartels behaviour !

    All staff and their representatives need to realise that the game is "hard ball" and it most certainly is not about a nice friendly little discussion !

    AN extremely robust response to the cartel is required which includes a determination to resort to Industrial Action if that is what is needed to shake the consortium out of their comfort zone.

    Don't whine and whinge !

    Take effective action !

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  • totally totally agree with above

    what are the unions playing at down there

    there should be a ballot right now for industrial will only have yourselves to blame if you dont!!!

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  • i work in the south west and we didn't join AfC in 2004, we joined it about 2-3 years ago. How much did it cost to join, how much will it cost to pull out?

    Are the managers getting a pay-rise, what payrises have they had in the past 2 years?

    Please can this information be published for all to read.

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  • After recent involvement with a union, I feel that this particular union is more interested in building and maintaining good relationships with the various employers than it is with its members........ and I think this will colour all actions it takes..... after the break up of the NHS, it'll happily climb into bed with whoever or whatever is left!

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  • As another member of the staff working in the South West we already are voicing our objections and planning industrial action. Last Friday there was a demonstration outside one of the hospitals involved in the cartel and it was well attended. Our Union reps are in discussion with this hospital who claim in their regular emails to staff that they are not willing to take a front seat and will decide what is best for the staff working conditions as the matters arise. Even if it means pulling out of the Consortium. It has not shown itself to be too trustworthy on that score though so we may well end up with industrial action very soon.

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  • Both Unison and the RCN should pull out of national negotiations very soon if the South West does not stop. This is a matter for the whole of the NHS, the government wants local pay and an end to national pay agreements, which is part of its whole strategy to break up and privatise the NHS. I would find striking very hard to take on board and I am less concerned with large pay increases, but on the issue of local pay, I would most definitely strike.

    Those terms and conditions will look very generous compared to private industry, but there is a very good reason for that. They have been built up over decades and have represented consistent compromises over levels of pay. Nurses have accepted they have not gone into the profession to be rich, but job security, a decent pension and decent annual leave to recover from exhausting work have been essential to counteract comparatively low levels of pay for similiarly professional roles. Except, there are no roles quitle like nursing and that drain in quite the same way.

    This cartel is made of a bunch of management consultants that long ago sold their souls to the devil and have no business and certainly no comprehension of employment matters for healthcare workers. They need to be shown they are not dealing with a cardboard box factory and nurses won't stand for the destruction of the rules of engagement that have stood the test of time, they should not be looking to upset that balance. They will be asking us to pay them next for the privilege of half killing oneself out on the shop floor! As has been said, the time has come to take the gloves off, and frankly, give them all a mean left hook!

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  • Totally agree with pretty much of all the above. Have always worked for SW Trusts but was thinking today what else can I do? I accept no pay rise (just) but we all do a thankless job these days, always negative media coverage and for one if they do win will seriously have to think about just doing bank or agency because if they are not going to pay us then i do not wantt to do nights, weekends, bank holidays or xmas. Yes will mean less but then hey they don't want to pay us anyway so might as well have weekends off and work to rule (take breaks, l etc)

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  • Please please God let us strike and as soon as possible, because I can't bear any more kicks in the teeth from Government and bullying management. My husband and I both work for one of the Trusts in the cartel this is very frightening for us. The Chief exec calls anyone who disagrees with his plans a "troublemaker" and makes it very clear their cards are marked. It is becoming unbearable.

    We need to show them that hell will freeze over before we let them get away with this.

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  • If the RCN think it's a new idea, freezing pay to staff who have not had an appraisal or completed mandatory training, they should think again. It's been in place in Stockport NHS Foundation Trust for nearly 2 years!

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  • My sympathies go out to the staff involved in the cartel in the SW. I agree that this has the smell of Government backing and is the continuation of the slippery slope to privatisation of the NHS. As I hope everyone is aware, the Govenment is sanctioning rapid and non-advertised contracts to private companies for all sorts of medical services. I also agree that the cartel know they will win any legal challenge because firstly they have the backing of the government and secondly because they have no creditable opposition from the Unions, DOH or Managers. This government is despicable in the hypocritical management of public services. Why anyone trusted them enough to vote for them I have no idea. The problem is which party is any better?? None that I can see.

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