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NHS workers living standards under threat


Unison members have called for a coordinated campaign to defend the Agenda for Change pay deal – backed by the threat of industrial action.

The coalition government’s policies on pay “pose the greatest threat” to staff living standards in the history of the NHS, union representatives warned last week at the Unison annual health conference in Liverpool.   

They said government policies – including the two-year pay freeze for those earning over £21,000, encouraging  freedoms for trusts to develop local terms and conditions, and moves to end final salary public sector pension schemes – were “fuelling a direct attack” on living standards.

They also condemned a proposal put forward by NHS Employers in December for trusts to guarantee not to make compulsory redundancies if staff accepted a freeze in Agenda for Change pay increments – which are not covered by the two-year freeze on basic pay.

Though, the deal has been rejected by unions nationally, some trusts are known to looking at making similar agreements locally (news, 28 September 2010, page 1).

Delegates voted to support a package of motions on threats to pay and conditions, which included calling for a national campaign to protect the Agenda for Change agreement as a whole and “opposing any moves” to freeze Agenda for Change increments, including consulting on industrial action.

The conference also heard that Agenda for Change pay awards had been below inflation for three of the past four years, prior to the freeze.

Speaking in support of the motions, Unison senior national officer Mike Jackson said jobs were the union’s “greatest priority… but not at any price”. “We are not prepared to accept that the cost of saving jobs is constantly falling value of pay,” he told delegates.

In his keynote speech to the conference on Tuesday, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis told delegates it was a “lie” that there was no alternative to cuts.

He said:  “If there is money to bail out the banks, if there is money to protect bankers’ bonuses, if there is money to go to war, there is money available for the NHS.”

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Readers' comments (5)

  • Hear hear!

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  • Absolutely agree, so do something about it!!! We need to strike!!!

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  • I for one can say that my living standards are not what they used to be. I have cut back and back and back. I am a one parent family, mid point band 6, so I am not entitled to any working tax benefits. Everything is going up except my salary.

    RCN you really have got to fight for us. Once interests rates go up there will be a lot of us nurses losing our homes because we just cannot stretch our finances any further. Other public sector workers appear to have such a better deal than us, again this shows to me how our profession lacks the respect it deserves.

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  • I agree with the person above I am a widow mid band 5 i have to care for 1 of my children and a grandson as both his parents died everything has gone up execpt my salary. by the time i have paid all the basic bills i am left with 25 pounds to live on for the month and that has to feed 3 people you just cant do it. and belive me i have tried. i am not entitled to any benifts and just fed up of goning with out food during the day but like all mums you feed tyour familiy first

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  • Wholeheartedly agree with you Linda, and Susan too, I'm not at your level yet and I am really struggling with the band 5 wage I am on. It is bloody ridiculous to think that considering the level of education we have, the qualifications we have, the fact that we are an essential highly skilled labour, the responsibility and the accountability we have, we are paid barely more than someone who works at Aldi. A binman gets as much as we do! After studying for two degrees and working in a highly skilled field such as ours, I should at least expect to be able to pay the bills without struggling! It's a joke! We should start out at least £25000 a year, and the higher levels of our profession, ENP's, band 8s, etc should be much closer to a GP's wage than they are currently. This would reflect the high level of qualifications and skill at each level.

    I understand that there is a tough economic climate, I understand that this would cost a lot of money, especially when I am also calling for a hell of a lot more staff Nurses and a legalised Nurse/patient ratio. HOWEVER, the money is there, it is simple as that. To coin a phrase used by the banks to justify million pound bonuses 'we have to pay the top rates to attract and keep the best people', so does that only apply to banking then? Is banking more important than healthcare? I don't think so! If there is money to pay the banks, if there is money to bail out other European countries and pay millions in foreign aid, if there is money for jobless layabouts to get a house and have all their bills paid for a lifetime, if there is money for MP's expenses and a missile strike on Libya, etc etc etc, then there is money to pay Nurses what we bloody deserve!!!!

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