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2011 Health Care Service Group Conference
3 April 2011

Conference believes that the policies of the Coalition government pose the greatest threat to living standards of health workers of any time in the 63 years of the NHS.

Whereas the Labour government recognised the value of national NHS pay, terms and conditions based upon equal value and fairness, the Coalition government is pursuing policies that will drive down earnings of health workers, fragment pay determination and collective bargaining and encourage employers to develop local terms and conditions linked to local labour markets. Conference believes this to be part of a wider government strategy to reduce the size of the public sector, drive down public sector pay, worsen terms and conditions, undermine pensions and weaken trade unions.

Conference recognises that the world-wide economic recession has caused a massive public sector funding deficit linked to a catastrophic loss in taxation income. Conference believes that the government is using this deficit opportunity to cut the public sector paybill rather than increase taxation to those responsible for causing the recession.

The pressures on NHS pay are being driven in Cymru/Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland by the deliberate underfunding of the NHS in the Coalition Government’s comprehensive spending review (CSR). The devolved governments have delivered settlements that are insufficient to properly fund public services in these countries including healthcare.

In England, the CSR settlement for the NHS has been lauded by the Coalition government as a ‘real terms increase’. Conference believes that the settlement represents a cut in real terms to health funding that is fuelling direct attacks on the living standards of health workers through a range of other policies:

1)Imposing a two year pay freeze on all health workers on pay points of £21,000 pa or over;

2)Opposing pay rises that would not protect the living standards of those on pay rates below £21,000 pa;

3)Undermining the independent pay review process and creating doubt over the future of the NHS Pay Review Body;

4)Proposing and encouraging new ‘freedoms’ for NHS trusts to develop local terms and conditions and therefore undermine Agenda for Change;

5)Encouraging competition and setting local tariffs (prices) for healthcare providers that will force them to drive down costs;

6)Threatening to withdraw the ‘Cabinet Office Code on Workforce Matters’ which guarantees that staff in non-NHS providers will have equivalent pay, terms and conditions to NHS staff;

7)Undermining pensions provision by worsening the NHS Pension scheme and withdrawing the ‘Fair Pensions’ provisions that apply to non-NHS providers staff.

Conference notes that NHS pay awards have been below inflation in three of the past four years. In addition that NHS pay awards are again falling behind private sector pay awards that were running at an average 1.5% during the 12 months ending October 2010. We condemn this attack on our standard of living and pledge to resist any further extension of no or below inflation pay deals. Health workers did not create this crisis and should not be made to suffer for it.

However, Conference recognises that these attacks on the pay, terms and conditions are not the only challenges facing health workers in these difficult times. The financial deficits and funding shortfalls in all four countries is putting hundreds of thousands of health jobs at risk and is jeopardising the availability and quality of healthcare to patients. The loss of a job and pay poses the greatest threat of all to the living standards of a health worker. Conference believes that the defence of jobs is the greatest priority in the year ahead.

Conference congratulates the Health Service Group Executive on rejecting the government’s attempt to freeze increments in return for a worthless commitment to try to avoid compulsory redundancies. We resolve to reject attempts to reduce our pay as well as fighting to preserve jobs and services.

Conference calls upon the Service Group Executive to launch an effective campaign against this government’s decision to impose a pay freeze on health service employees earning above £21,000 and to develop a strategy on NHS pay that includes the following elements:

a)Campaigning and lobbying with other unions in defence of UK wide pay determination including the independent NHS Pay Review Body process, national collective bargaining on terms and conditions, our collective agreement Agenda for Change and the NHS Pension Scheme;

b)Opposing any moves to freeze the entitlement to increments, including consulting on industrial action;

c)Co-ordinating and supporting campaigns by Regions and Branches in those employing organisations that are seeking to undermine national pay, terms and conditions including industrial action in line with UNISON’s rules;

d)Looking at ways to build national campaigns in defence of the continuation of Agenda for Change and our national terms and conditions;

e)Recruiting and organising around such campaigns;

f)Regularly consulting with members through regions and branches;

g)Recognising that health workers have made sacrifices and that their pay has fallen behind inflation developing the case for above inflation increases in future years to catch up and restore the value of pay and living standards;

h)Oppose the pay freeze with effect from 1 April 2011 and plan for a national campaign of action involving all members covered by Agenda for Change;

i)Recognising that maximising job security and the avoidance of redundancies is our greatest priority, it is not at any cost and UNISON reaffirms its policy to preserve UK pay and conditions and continues to seek negotiated improvements to the Handbook including a shorter working week, the merger of Bands 1 and 2 and the shortening of long pay bands as objectives to be pursued.