The overwhelming majority of nurses wants unions to reject a freeze on pay increments in return for a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies, a Nursing Times survey has found.
This is despite Department of Health calculations sent to unions last week, warning that up to 60,000 jobs could be at risk if the deal - hoped to save £1.9bn a year - is not accepted.
Under the proposal by NHS Employers, increments for all NHS staff would be frozen for two years from April and those in Agenda for Change bands 1-6 would receive a “no compulsory redundancy” guarantee over the same period.
But an online poll of more than 1,500 Nursing Times readers found 84% wanted their local union representative to reject the offer.
Nearly 70% of nurses said the proposed agreement was a “disgrace”, while 21% said it was “unfair”.
Two thirds said they would seek a job at a neighbouring trust if their organisation went ahead with it.
One respondent said: “I do not believe this will secure jobs, nor will it improve services. Instead, it will damage morale and demotivate a hard working workforce.”
The result was little affected by respondents’ area of work or AfC pay band.
Despite their hostility to the proposal, 42% of respondents thought it was quite likely or very likely that their union representatives would accept it.
Unison senior national officer Mike Jackson said it was too early to reject the proposal outright: “People are very worried about job security. It’s a very big decision.”
However, it looks increasingly unlikely that the deal will be accepted without further negotiations. Mr Jackson added: “It would be very unusual for unions to accept a first offer.”
Unions will deliver their verdict to NHS Employers on 20 January, after consulting with members. Discussions are likely to centre on the fact that the guarantee on compulsory redundancies does not apply to bands 7-9.
Royal College of Nursing head of employment relations Josie Irwin said this was “sticking in the craw of a lot of members”.
The survey results suggest there was disagreement among nurses on that issue.
Although only 17% of all respondents said they agreed that those on bands 7 and above should be excluded from the job guarantee part of the proposal, that increased to 28% among band 5 respondents, with a further 20% saying they did not know.
Ninety-one per cent of respondents on band 7 disagreed.
Perhaps reflecting the different make-up of the unions, 14% of Unison members said representatives should accept the deal, compared with 10% of RCN members and 11% of non-union members.
However, Ms Irwin said nurses were concerned that trusts would not honour the “no compulsory redundancy” side of any bargain.
That was backed up by the survey. More than 80% said they had little confidence that their employer would honour the pledge.
One respondent said: “The premise that fewer NHS staff will lose their jobs because of pay freezes is unfounded. It is inevitable that more cuts will be made.”
That view was also reflected in the early results of a survey by Nursing Times’ sister magazine Health Service Journal, in which only 28% of the 329 non primary care trust managers said they were confident their trust could honour the promise on redundancies.