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Union negotiators issue ultimatum to stop 'pay cartel'


Health unions are on the verge of walking away from national talks on Agenda for Change should employers fail to give a commitment on the South West “pay cartel”, Nursing Times understands.

Since the formation of the South West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium in May, unions have warned it was undermining national negotiations on changes to AfC and threatened to end talks with NHS Employers, which is negotiating on behalf of the government.

Nursing Times understands they have now issued a “crunch time” ultimatum to end the controversy surrounding the consortium’s 20 trusts, which are seeking their own changes to the AfC framework.

At a meeting on Friday, unions told NHS Employers that it must give a commitment to the national process and show its ability to deliver on them or the national negotiations could collapse.

Christina McAnea, head of health at Unison and chair of the staffside council, said unions wanted a national agreement, “but not at any cost”.

Following the meeting she told Nursing Times unions would continue talking but that the ultimatum on the South West was not “open ended” and would be discussed again at a meeting with employers in October.

She said: “It really is crunch time for employers and the national negotiations, as far as all the unions are concerned. We have to have some indication they will bring the South West into line and stop it.

“Without such a commitment we would probably have to walk away from the national negotiations.”

She said she had written to the trusts in the South West Consortium, asking each one to formally suspend its involvement and commit to the national process.

She added: “We are looking at contingency plans up to, and including industrial action, that has to be part of our planning.”

NHS Employers has set out a raft of proposed changes to AfC, including an end automatic incremental pay rises, reductions to sick pay, and freedom to move senior staff out of the framework altogether.

Meanwhile, the South West Consortium has outlined 28 changes it wants to make, which go much further than the national proposals and include changes such as reducing annual leave, adding extra working hours, changing on-call payments, and reducing benefits.

Ms McAnea told Nursing Times she believed trusts in the South West had mistakenly thought the region would be “easy pickings” and had been “surprised” by the strength of opposition.

She added: “We appreciate some trusts are facing serious financial difficulties and we have offered to work with them.

“We are happy to talk to individual trusts about issues facing them. What we won’t do is give them carte blanche to negotiate away national terms and conditions, we can’t do that; we won’t do that.”

NHS Employers has previously said the way for unions to secure a national agreement is to negotiate and has stressed the longer there is uncertainty the more likely it is local trusts will consider pursuing their own solutions.

Jon Fisher, spokesman for the South West Consortium, said it was for individual member trusts to decide on any future involvement with the project, adding: “Each member organisation is committed to engaging with staff side groups and local union representatives to promote engagement and understanding of the consortium’s work.”


Readers' comments (11)

  • tinkerbell

    aren't pay cartels illegal anyway? just changing the word from 'cartel' to 'consortium' doesn't make them any less illegal. What a game.

    Does legal even matter anymore to this so called coalition when you can ignore a court ruling to publish the risk register? and just stomp right over any legality to suit your own agenda. Isn't that called being a vigilante?

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  • There is blatant blackmail going on here with the NHS Employers and the Cartel in cahoots by the sounds of things.

    It is outrageous and the Unions and ALL their members have to make probably the biggest stand they have ever had to make. And if that means strikes then so be it.

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  • tinkerbell

    and all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put humpty (OUR NHS) together again.

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  • Reduce the big bosses pay not us nurses who work our behinds off to meet targets and standards, sometimes not getting breaks. As nurses we don't get paid enough as it is look at all the CEO and directors pay and reduce theirs and leave te ones that do the hard graft and not work mon to fri hours. The patients will suffer. We have already seen cuts in equipment, beds and care standards.

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  • Well, can't say any of this ridiculousness is a surprise at all. When Healthcare Management want to save money, the first area they attack is nursing. When will they learn that, while saving the money through nursing is going to cause them more financial issues in the long-term. Of course, very few managers in the NHS have the ability to look beyond the current financial year. The Trust I currently work for was dragged severely over the coals by the CQC for making a lot of their savings through cutting nursing posts and not filling those created through staff leaving/retiring and it back-fired as they had to go on a major recruitment drive to bring in about 70 Nurses in total.
    Ultimately, as long as the people running NHS Trusts have no experience in healthcare, they will go after the biggest expenditure: Nursing staff. One day, the NHS will wake up and realise that hiring people who have plenty of expertise in running business but none in the health profession is just plain stupid.
    I am at a point where I am sick and tired of my profession being attacked: By Hospital management looking for a quick way to save money even if it compromises patient safety; By our Governing Body doing everything they can to get nurses to leave the profession by grotesquely inflating membership fees on the back of completely bogus and completely false figures; The media who get on the band-wagon of every little mistake the nursing profession makes (individual errors, high profile errors etc) and never actually points out that we do an outstanding job given the circumstances. I could go on. I honestly no longer know if I even want to be a nurse anymore (and I certainly wouldn't recommend it to anyone at the moment). Perhaps I could look abroad where nurses are treated with respect, dignity and common decency rather than just being treated as an easy way out of economic problems.
    The NHS is in a very bad way at the moment but, contrary to popular belief, it is not because of is because the people who run Trusts are so short-sighted that they are willing to compromise patient safety by cutting the part of the NHS that is the worst part to cut. I never thought I would see the day when all over the country Patients and their Safety is not even considered by Managers to be important anymore

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  • And of course, Managers can't possibly look at their own as a way to save money. Yes, nurses use more resources due to much larger numbers but, at most Trusts, you could remove an entire level of management or two without impacting on services at all and, that way, patient safety would not be compromised. But, of course, managers aren't going to recommend terminating managers posts....after all they have to look after their own kind right?

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  • tinkerbell

    nursemorph | 18-Sep-2012 1:26 pm

    or all of them out of hours and at weekends. How do we cope without them?

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  • tinkerbell

    but very soon, being far too short sighted to realise it, (and the fact that they should have been fighting for their nurses) those managers will be replaced with private managers, it will come back to bite them on the bum mark my words.Turncoats will realise the error of their ways, even if it is all to late for the staff they have fired and made their lives miserable and then had to recruit new staff when they could have kept what they had. Think it's called a knee jerk reaction.

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  • michael stone

    tinkerbell | 18-Sep-2012 2:34 pm

    Think it's called a knee jerk reaction.

    I suppose that tactic is banned on your restraint course.

    I also notice something (not read it except the headline) about 111 staff being offered less pay.

    The tactic of the moment, is very clearly to divide the workers up into small groups, and pick them off one-by-one. Region by region, role by role, etc. A well known military tactic, of isolate and destroy.

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  • The cartel leaders are hoping to be the ones who, like Mrs Thatcher, "broke" the unions. Fame, fortune, and employment opportunities in other organisations will await them whatever the outcome for the grassroots of the NHS. Unless we stop it.

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