NHS Employers – the body that represents the Department of Health in pay negotiations with NHS staff – has proposed to freeze Agenda for Change pay increments for two years in exchange for a “no compulsory redundancy” agreement.
The proposal follows lobbying and appeals from senior NHS managers who claim the annual increments – which are worth an average 2.5 per cent a year – are unaffordable.
The government has already announced that from April, NHS staff along with other public sector workers will have no cost of living increase applied to their salaries for two years. But until now, annual increments – which see the majority of staff rise up regimented steps in their pay bands each year – have not been affected.
The proposal was put to staff representatives at the NHS Staff Council on Friday afternoon. It would apply to staff on Agenda for Change pay bands 1 to 6, including those at the top of their pay scale who in theory have no automatic entitlement to an increment.
However, the complexities of implementing a “no compulsory redundancy” agreement mean the deal may not be available in all areas. Instead, the proposal is for a national framework or set of principles which would be used to guide local case-by-case negotiations.
Unison Senior national officer Mike Jackson said: “The NHS is going through a hard time with trusts being told to make £20bn in efficiency savings. The offer of a no compulsory redundancy agreement has the potential to offer job security but our members are still being asked to make a very tough choice.
“In return for the agreement, staff terms and conditions under Agenda for Change would also be protected. A number of trusts have recently imposed changes on the workforce and these should be reversed.”
He added health unions would now consult with each other and their members – a process he said could take until February.
A spokesman for NHS Employers said: “Employers face difficult decisions to deliver the required efficiencies from 2011. NHS Employers has made a proposal for the English NHS to the trade unions on the NHS Staff Council which we believe will give greater security of employment for staff. We hope that unions will consider our proposals and discuss the scope for an agreed way forward.”
A spokeswoman for the British Medical Association said: “We will consider the details of the NHS Employers’ proposal but are extremely concerned that it seems hitting staff pay yet further is the only offer on the table.”