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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