Members of the union Unison are to protest today at plans in the South West to create a regional “pay cartel”.
As previously reported by Nursing Times, 16 trusts in the South West are seeking to move away from Agenda for Change and have formed a consortium to lead regional negotiation on pay, terms and conditions. Unions have dubbed the group a “cartel”.
Only Somerset Community Health and Torbay and Southern Devon Health and Care Trust have decided not to join the group, while the region’s mental health trusts are keeping their position under review.
Unison claims the plans will “damage patient care and drive down pay”, and threatens the future of on-going national negotiations between unions and government representatives on changes to Agenda for Change.
The union is holding its annual conference in Bournemouth this week. It said more than a hundred health workers plus supporters are set to protest outside Poole Hospital Foundation Trust at 1pm today.
According to the union, the trust is a “key player” in setting up the cartel as its chief executive, Chris Bown, is chair of its steering group.
Unison head of health Christina McAnea, who will lead the protest, said: “The setting up of this pay cartel is a crude attempt to drive down wages, which in turn will damage the quality of patient care in all 16 trusts.
“The cartel will lead to shortages of key staff who will vote with their feet and move to hospitals where the pay is better and patients will be the ones who suffer.”
She added: “Cutting wages of hospital workers will also have a knock-on effect on already depressed economies in the South West. Health workers are already suffering from a two year pay freeze and this further assault on their pay and conditions will hit morale as well as their spending power.
“We do not want rogue employers threatening to undermine the stability of national pay bargaining and Agenda for Change. It is not too late for those 16 trusts to do the right thing by their patients and staff and drop this damaging and divisive plan.”
In response, Mr Bown said: “I was pleased to have had the opportunity to discuss the outline project with senior Unison representatives today - we are committed to providing staff and union representatives with regular updates as the project proceeds, and to listen to any concerns they may have.
“At this stage, prior to the working group meeting for the first time and therefore with no decisions made on how the project will progress, it was helpful to hold some initial dialogue.”