The government’s proposed pay deal for NHS workers in England, which would see the majority of nurses and midwives benefit from a 1% uplift, could risk causing a “drain” of senior clinical managers who would see their salary frozen under the new offer, it has been warned.
Unions said the offer for 2015-16 included significant improvements to previous offers made by the government and would now consult their members on it.
But they added the deal was not sustainable in the long term and was expected to “disappoint” staff on the highest pay bands.
Last week, NHS trade unions Unison, Unite, the Royal College of Midwives, the GMB and Society of Radiographers, suspended a 12-hour strike, after the Department of Health proposed a 1% pay rise for the majority of NHS staff.
The offer is for a consolidated, or pensionable, 1% pay rise for all staff up to pay point 33 within band 8 – or those earning £39,239 – within the Agenda for Change pay framework. Lower paid staff on pay points 3 to 8 – those who earn up to £17,425 – would receive an additional £200 consolidated payment as well.
Staff earning between £40,558 and £56,504 would also receive a consolidated 1% increase in their earnings from April, but would not be able to receive incremental pay rises for a year.
Meanwhile, NHS staff earning more than £56,504 would not get the 1% uplift and would also have a freeze on their incremental pay.
The consolidated offer means the 1% uplift will be applied to other top up payments such as those for unsocial hours, overtime, being on-call and the London weighting.
“You will maybe see a senior manager drain within the NHS because of this. And that should be something that worries everyone”
Last year, the government rejected a blanket 1% pay increase for all NHS staff – recommended by the NHS Pay Review Body – and instead offered a deal in which the 1% rise would only be applied to workers who were not in receipt of incremental pay awards.
The offer was also non-consolidated – meaning the uplift would not be added to employees’ substantive pay or pension.
Last week, in a letter to NHS trade unions, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the new pay offer would apply to 1.1m staff under Agenda for Change.
The DH said it had also agreed to hold talks over a possible redundancy cap for those staff leaving the NHS from April 2015 which would effectively cap redundancy payments to a maximum of £160,000.
According to the DH, these changes would mean the deal will not increase the NHS pay bill in 2015-16. It said this has enabled it to make the 1% pay offer.
Mr Hunt said: “We have consistently said that we wouldn’t agree a pay deal that risked frontline jobs and therefore patient safety. This offer achieves that — the NHS paybill will not increase next year, while we reward hardworking staff.”
Meanwhile, the offer also includes a commitment from the government to the NHS Pay Review Body to continue to make future recommendations on pay uplift for NHS staff in 2016-17.
Unison’s head of health, Christina McAnea, said that it was “without doubt” that the NHS staff who went on strike in October and November, and were again prepared to take industrial action last week, had forced the government to renew its offer.
She said: “Those that would get the most benefit out of this pay deal are the staff at the bottom end – the quarter of a million who are the lowest paid in the NHS. The ones that are the worst off are the 13,000 [senior managers] at the very top.
“We don’t think you can run a sustainable health system by taking money away from senior managers to fund pay for the lowest paid. We have made that clear to the government,” she said.
She added: “It’s not fair to managers who have incredibly stressful jobs and do a brilliant job by and large, and the worry there is you will maybe see a senior manager drain within the NHS because of this. And that should be something that worries everyone.”
Jon Skewes, the RCM’s director for policy, employment relations and communication, echoed these thoughts, saying he expected those staff in line for the increment freeze to be “disappointed”.
“Although we are talking small figures – nobody is pretending this is a huge deal in money terms for our members – it is above inflation”
However, he said the pay talks were “tough” and that the overall outcome was fair, adding that at some points during negotiation, it was proposed that the 1% uplift only be applied to staff within “considerably lower” pay bands.
“Although we are talking small figures – nobody is pretending this is a huge deal in money terms for our members – it is above inflation, which is about 0.5% at the moment,” said Mr Skewes.
He added: “There was also a strongly worded adherent by the government to use the pay review body for uplift in the following year and thereafter.
“That is a huge issue for midwives because our members went out on strike for first time in the union’s 133-year history, because essentially the government had ripped up the relationship with staff and the NHS and how they were valued.”
Unions expect to reach a decision on whether to accept the deal by the end of this month, once they have balloted members.
They said officers would be providing briefings to members over the coming weeks, so they were able to make an informed decision about whether to accept the proposal or reject it and continue industrial action.
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