Unions are stepping up behind-the-scenes pressure on the government over planned attacks on public sector pay and pensions.
The NHS Staff Council met on Friday to discuss how to combat threats to Agenda for Change terms and conditions.
Staff and employer representatives also came together last Thursday to thrash out issues at the Social Partnership Forum. The forum brings together employers, unions and the Department of Health to discuss the future workforce implications of government health policies.
Meanwhile, an application from a group of unions to launch a judicial review against changes to pensions has been formally lodged.
The unions, which include Unite, are challenging plans to change the inflation measure used to calculate the value of public sector pensions. They are unhappy with plans to link increases in the value of pensions to the consumer prices index, instead of the generally higher retail prices index.
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail told Nursing Times the change would have a “devastating” impact on the value of pensions, reducing them by 15%.
Talks between unions and ministers, including cabinet office minister Frances Maude and chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, over the change are ongoing. They are also discussing plans to raise staff pension contributions and switch from final salary to career average schemes, as recommended by the Hutton report in March.
Chancellor George Osborne previously said in budget speech in March he would not be “cherry-picking” from Lord Hutton’s report, which recommended many of the changes under discussion.
But Ms Cartmail said: “They’re wedded to the [switch to] career average schemes, unless we can persuade them otherwise.”
She said unions were making a strong case for not going ahead with plans to raise employee contributions by 3% and were “trying to agree some basic principles”.
Negotiations are due to conclude in June. However, the High Court may not rule on the judicial review until after this point.
Unions are also fighting strong calls for restraint over public sector paybills (see left).
Right wing thinktank the Policy Exchange last week published a report claiming public sector workers were paid 35% more per hour than in the private sector. It also called for an end to national pay bargaining and national strike ballots.