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Tensions rise as 'cartel' presses on with break from Agenda for Change


The South West “pay cartel” is forging ahead with plans to break away from nationally agreed terms and conditions, despite growing threats and protests from unions, Nursing Times has learnt.

The 20 hospital trusts in the South West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium have agreed to continue exploring local changes to staff terms and conditions. Nursing Times has learnt members of the consortium – dubbed a “cartel” by unions – endorsed its aims at their latest meeting in September and will press on with the group’s work.

The move comes in spite of repeated warnings from unions that the consortium’s continued existence risks the collapse of national negotiations on Agenda for Change with NHS Employers, which represent NHS organisations and is negotiating on behalf of the government.

The union staff-side council wrote to trusts in the consortium last month, demanding they suspend their involvement with it. The council has warned it could walk away from the long-running national talks unless the consortium gives a commitment to halt its plans. However, unions are yet to set a deadline after which they will act on this threat.

Ending national talks would potentially dash hopes of an agreement on incremental pay rises and unsocial hours sick pay, which is seen as a crucial part of helping the NHS meet its daunting efficiency targets.

A Unison spokeswoman said some trusts in the consortium had responded to the staff-side letter. He said: “We will be reviewing the situation when we have a clearer picture.”

Josie Irwin, head of employment relations at the Royal College of Nursing, said she would be “concerned” if the consortium continued without taking into account the views of unions.

She said: “The national discussions are continuing on the basis of two caveats. One that there is a clear commitment from the employers to the national framework and that there is a positive response from the 20 South West trusts to the staff-side letter.”

The next meeting between unions and NHS Employers is set to take place in October.

Dean Royles, director of NHS Employers, said it was important all parties “keep a perspective” on reaching a national deal. He said: “It is essential we have mature discussions and put patients first.”

Nursing Times understands around 40 senior managers from the consortium met on 18 September.

Chris Bown, chief executive of Poole Hospital Foundation Trust, who is leading the consortium, said: “Attendees reaffirmed the unprecedented challenges facing the NHS in the South West.

“The view that amendments to pay, terms and conditions simply must be considered if trusts are to remain viable employers and service providers in the years ahead was also further endorsed.”

He said the group would continue to try and engage with unions and re-iterated the hope the national talks would produce “fit for purpose” changes to terms and conditions.

The consortium is working on the preparation of a business case to be completed by the end of the year, which will make recommendations on how trusts in the South West could save money. It has previously revealed a list of 28 ways savings could be made, including reducing annual leave, pay increments and sick pay benefits.

However, local union members protested against the consortium outside North Bristol Trust last Thursday and handed over a petition signed by over 2,000 staff, calling on the trust to withdraw from the group.

Meanwhile, a similar petition signed by more than 1,600 staff working at Taunton and Somerset Foundation Trust was handed to the trust’s chair Ros Wyke last Wednesday.

A national e-petition calling for ministers to take action to stop the South West Consortium has so far attracted 22,300 signatures.


Readers' comments (20)

  • I've heard that one CEO was awarded a 30,000 pound bonus for joining this, if that is true then it is very unfair. I should like to know how many staff are NOT going to be affected by the proposed changes - are management in AfC, what their salaries are now and what cuts they will face.

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  • what do you expect from the likes of chris brown...he is just following the tory lead...he will be one anyway

    take money from the poor and give to the rich...they are vile people and i hope one day they get whats coming and the staff down there strike

    lets see if he can run a hospital with no staff...and if its true one CEO was given a bonus of 30,000 pounds while staff are threatened with loosing up to 5% of their pay..its disgusting..mind you what do you exoect from it for themselves and thier huge salaries

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  • I remember being told that we would not lose pay when we joined AfC which was untrue, we did lose out and now we are going to lose even more by pulling out of AfC.

    Are the CEOs of the cartel going to publish the annual salaries of all their directors and managers and compare them to others in different parts of the country?

    Where did these cash-strapped hospitals find 10,000 pounds to join the cartel (equivalent to the annual take-home pay of many of their staff).

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  • I live in the South West. Try living in the shadow of these proposed cuts to pay. Its hard enough making ends meet as it is. I work full time (and more) and have a 2nd job. I feel increasingly desperate!!!!

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  • I too live in the SW, though other areas wil follow I'm sure.
    Managers probably are not in AFC, will they have a pay cut/ freeze course not. It is always the nurses who seem to be such an unecessary overhead these days!!
    I have signed every petition, written to my MP (no joy there!!) and although have never done anything remotely millitant before i wil be going to London on the 20th Octber as I feel have to do something. So everyone do what you can as if we don't Trusts will have carte blanch to do what they like to us, and as said poor get poorer and the rich richer.

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 2-Oct-2012 1:45 pm

    Good for you. I hope other nurses are going to start seeing they we need to have a 'united' voice.

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  • This "Cartel" is relying on there being a weak and uncoordinated response from Nurses and other staff affected by the proposals to reduce pay and alter terms and conditions of service.

    Here are some ideas for embattled health care employees in the South West

    All require good pre planning and a committed determination to oppose the Cartel.

    1. Low level activity ----- petitions, peaceful protest and lobbying of local public.

    2.Work to rule and a refusal to undertake any and all overtime. Insistence on management ensuring staff can take uninterrupted meal breaks.

    3 Collection of mass post dated resignations coupled with the formation of a "Not for Profit" Staffing Supply agency. Charging Rates for the supply of staff should be related to the gross private sector rates for agency staff.

    4 The last resort ! Strike Action ! Advise can be sought form the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) who successfully took strike action against intransigent employers as recently as March 2012

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  • mid yorkshire trust is making 40 admin staff redundant and other admin staff having re-banding

    the CEO said this was the first lot more staff to follow

    they came to this paying a private company 3.4 million pounds to come up with idea!!!!

    it is a piece in yesterdays daily mirror not got the link sorry

    oh my god am I missing something here??

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  • yes got it

    so thier tory friends can make more profit
    stuff the workers!!!

    lowest of the low

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  • maybe the Tories are trying to provide us with a cost effective health services which is affordable and a system which works to provide equality in care for all.

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