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Working conditions to take priority in pay talks

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Improving NHS working conditions is set to top the agenda in the latest round of talks between nurse unions, employers and the government, NT has learnt.

Improving NHS working conditions is set to top the agenda in the latest round of talks between nurse unions, employers and the government, NT has learnt.

The likelihood of a multi-year pay deal, mooted during this year’s fractious pay negotiations, appears to have receded due to lack of progress in recent talks.
But employers and unions have decided to press on with discussions on a range of
other issues.

Top of the list will be proposals to ‘re-energise’ the Improving Working Lives scheme, as unions are concerned that the flexible working initiative has become sidelined.

Other issues include tinkering with the Agenda for Change pay structure so there are fewer increments – potentially making it easier for staff to progress up the career ladder and obtain pay increases. Also under discussion will be reducing the length of the working week.

Mike Jackson, Unison senior national officer, said: ‘There is a need for a new impetus in the area of improving working lives. We are concerned that some of the benefits to staff and to NHS organisations that were achieved are being lost.

‘There were champions in the organisations on the employers’ and the staff side. But a lot of people have moved on and have not been replaced – it needs to be re-energised,’ he told NT. ‘There are big benefits for trusts – lower sickness absence, improved productivity and staff working more flexibly.’

Josie Irwin, RCN head of employment relations, added that bringing about improvements to Agenda for Change had been one of the key reasons the college had made concessions over this year’s pay deal.

Revelations that the NHS is heading for a £1.8bn surplus by the end of the current financial year have also strengthened their hand in pay talks, say unions.

‘Now that we have a much clearer view of the surplus, we will be saying to the Pay Review Body that the NHS can easily afford a decent pay increase for staff,’ Mr Jackson added. ‘There is no reason to have a below-inflation increase again.’

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