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Strike threat looms at Essex trust

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The possibility of nurses going on strike in Essex moved closer last week after a ballot almost unanimously rejected a 2% pay offer.

The Unison ballot, which closed last week, suggested 95% of staff at Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust would reject the proposed deal. The trust employs around 3,000 people, around half of whom are nurses.

In addition, 89% voted for industrial action short of a strike and 61% voted for industrial action including a strike.

Most of the trust’s staff are not on Agenda for Change pay bands. It has used its foundation status to opt out of the national pay structure and can make pay offers independently of the rest of the NHS.

HR director Sandra Le Blanc has argued in internal memos, seen by NT, that a rise above 2% would mean the trust would have to make redundancies to balance its books in 2008–2009.

Nick Bradley, Unison’s regional officer, said: ‘Industrial action is always a last resort. This is the only trust in the country where the majority of staff are not on AfC. I want to use this as an opportunity to get this trust off local terms and conditions and on to AfC. Some people are being paid less than they would be on national pay scales.’

A ballot of RCN members, finishing next week, is also expected to reject the offer. RCN regional officer Mike Kavanagh said: ‘I would be extremely surprised if our result is different.

‘I can’t say everyone would want to move onto AfC. Although at the moment most staff are on more than the current pay levels for this year it is much less than 1% and they lose out over other terms and conditions,’ he added.

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