NHS employers are gearing up for a nationwide attempt to reduce the incremental pay rises that nurses and other staff currently receive, it has been revealed.
Details of the changes that NHS Employers, the body that represents trusts in negotiations, wants to make to the Agenda for Change pay framework were given by Unison’s head of health Christina McAnea at a union conference in Brighton.
According to Ms McAnea, under the early proposals from the employer side, automatic incremental pay rises would be scrapped for band 5 staff in their first two-year preceptorship.
For all other bands, employers want a ceiling to be put in place beyond which incremental pay would be discretionary, based on performance.
Meanwhile, the employers want to see an end to enhanced payments to staff who are on sick leave.
Incremental pay rises in the NHS average 2.5%. They are a continuing target for employers because they increase the overall paybill at a time when health service managers are under pressure to save money.
The proposals were met with derision by some conference delegates who expressed fears employers were attempting to chip away at workers’ terms and conditions.
They follow attempts made in early 2011 by NHS Employers to freeze incremental pay for all NHS staff in England, in exchange for a “no compulsory redundancy” guarantee for some staff. These were rejected by unions.
Unison, along with other unions, is launching a bid to get the views of members on the new proposals before formal discussions start in the summer.
Trusts already have the ability to use performance to decide whether to approve incremental pay rises but many trusts lack the HR capacity or knowledge to do this routinely.
Ms McAnea told Nursing Times the employers’ suggestions had been raised in informal discussions but were not currently formal proposals that had been subject to negotiation.
She said: “The employers are serious about this and we know this is already happening in some areas of England. We hope by trying to resolve things nationally those discussions will go away.”
She said Unison had yet to develop a formal position on the proposals and that the bid to get members’ views was not a formal consultation.
“Agenda for Change already allows the use of performance issues to determine if someone gets a pay rise. The fact they don’t have the systems in place to do that, is their responsibility,” she said. She added: “They seem to want to re-state the case.”
Ms McAnea said Agenda for Change was not an “historical” document that would never be altered.
She said: “It will evolve and change. All national agreements have to be relevant and appropriate to members and employers.”
She urged local branches and regions to give their views on the proposals during May and June, along with other health service unions, ahead of a Staff Council meeting in June.
Dean Royles, director of NHS Employers, said: “All pay systems develop over time and we hope that by engaging early we can do things that refine rather than lead to radical overall. Without mature national discussion the local appetite for radical change will accelerate.”
Two trusts in the North East recently scrapped policies on sickness absence under which increments were withheld, following an employment tribunal ruling.