- 2008 Health Care Service Group Conference
- 14 April 2008
Conference notes that the 2007/8 pay settlement for the NHS includes a commitment by the Government, Employers and unions to enter into further talks with a view to agreeing a multi-year agreement on pay and other issues. The 2007/8 settlement was agreed in an all member ballot held in September 2007 and was supported by 69% of those who voted.
Conference recognises that negotiations on a multi-year agreement were unable to make progress during the period September 2007 to January 2008 because of the Government’s stubborn insistence that a 2% cap had to apply on all public sector pay settlements for the three years of their Comprehensive Spending Review (2008-2011).
Conference notes that the Staff Side position in February 2008, endorsed by the Service Group Executive, was that the talks should pause, pending the announcement of the NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB) recommendation, expected in March 2008.
Conference notes that the proposed multi-year agreement, negotiated by UNISON and the RCN on the 2nd and 4th April 2008, does not meet in full UNISON Conference policy for an increase substantially above the Retail Price Index for 2008/9. It further notes that the NHSPRB recommendation of 2.75% is also below the current RPI level of 4.1% although above the Consumer Price Index measure of inflation at 2.5%.
However, conference recognises that the proposed agreement includes progress on a number of negotiating objectives contained in UNISON conference policy:
·Flat rate increase for pay points 1-13 (Band 1-3/4) in Year 3
·Increase in the NHS Minimum wage to £6.77 in Year 2, meeting the UNISON objective of £6.75 ph
·First steps towards the merger of Bands 1 and 2 by the removal of the only pay point below Band 2
·A new trade union facilities agreement
·The removal of a pay point in Band 5 and additional increases for staff at a number of pay points within band 5
·Additional money at the top of band 5 for the 25% of staff who get no incremental increase, and additional money for those at the top three points on Band 5 and bottom of band 6
·A new policy statement to facilitate further work to improve work life balance and well-being at work
·A written commitment to further negotiations to reduce the number of pay points in other long pay bands
·A written commitment to further negotiations around the UNISON claim for a progressive reduction in the hours of the working week
Conference notes that, prior to these multi-year talks, the employers were adamantly against any changes to the pay spine or pay banding, and that no progress had been made on these objectives.
In relation to the pay elements of the proposed agreement, conference notes that at 2.75% the NHS Pay Review Body has recommended the highest increase of any public sector group and in its report was critical of government pay policy. Conference notes that the stated Government policy is that if the proposed multi-year agreement is accepted, it will pay the NHSPRB recommended amount in full, but that if it is not, it will reserve its right to accept, stage, or abate the award. Conference notes that UNISON’s ‘Pay Matters’ campaign has as a central objective, the breaking of the Government’s public sector pay limit of 2% pa for the next three years, and that the proposed pay increases achieve that objective
Conference recognises that multi-year deals pose risks for union members, in that the rates of inflation in years two and three are as yet unknown. The proposed increases are: 2.75% for year one, 2.54% for year two and 2.5% for year three (total value 8.1%). However, the re-opener clause, whilst not guaranteeing further increases should inflation be higher than 2.5% in years two and three, does provide the opportunity for the union to return to the NHS PRB with new evidence and to campaign for higher pay increases should inflation rise significantly.
Conference believes that all UNISON members working in health affected by this pay proposal should be given a say on whether to accept or reject this proposed agreement. Further, that if it were rejected, members would have to be prepared to take lawful industrial action to secure a higher award for either a single year or a multi-year agreement.
Conference therefore calls upon the SGE to hold a ballot in May 2008 of UNISON members working in Health who are affected by this proposal, to ask them whether they wish to accept or reject the proposed agreement.