Defending Our National Agreement

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2012 Health Care Service Group Conference
24 November 2011

Our union has invested significant resources in the development, implementation and improvement of the Agenda for Change agreement. In addition to the massive change management programme required to move to the Agenda for Change agreement from 2004, the union has recognised that Agenda for Change is a national agreement that can adapt to remain sustainable and able to meet changing circumstances. To this end, we have pursued an active negotiating strategy, using the NHS Staff Council to reach agreements on a range of terms and conditions issues – including new unsocial hours arrangements; updating the job evaluation handbook; harmonised principles for on-call agreements and developing new approaches to increase application of the Knowledge and Skills Framework. Health branches have worked in partnership with other staff sides and HR departments to ensure that NHS organisations have applied Agenda for Change Terms and conditions appropriately. This has resulted in a system which has delivered fair and equal pay and is common to all NHS staff in all four UK countries.

Now, though, this position is under attack. Under pressure to meet the massive financial challenges resulting from the Government’s financial settlement – and without political endorsement of the importance of the UK-wide Agenda for Change agreement – many NHS organisations are looking to vary Agenda for Change terms and conditions as a means of cutting their staffing costs. These attacks are coming in a range of guises – from organisations that are no longer applying the Job Evaluation Scheme correctly; to those imposing new blocks to incremental progression; or asking staff to agree to contractual changes on major elements of the agreement. As the cuts continue to bite, and particularly as more organisations in England acquire Foundation Trust status, this pressure is only going to increase.

We recognise the importance of Agenda for Change and the structures which support and maintain it as vital to maintaining an effective UK wide bargaining strategy and call upon the Health Service Group to:

1)Reaffirm the union’s commitment to the UK wide Agenda for Change agreement and to the application of NHS Terms and Conditions of Service for all NHS Staff and to lobby (via the Westminster Governments, the four health departments and other relevant political routes) for the preservation of the UK wide Agenda for Change agreement;

2)Continue to work at national level to maintain the structures supporting Agenda for Change, including the NHS Staff Council and its subgroups, and to ensure Agenda for Change is sustainable in the long-term;

3)Contribute to and support the national work of the Job Evaluation and Knowledge and Skills Framework Group and maintain expertise on these areas within the Service Group and our health branches;

4)Staunchly resist attempts from local employers to introduce non-Agenda for Change terms for new starters;

5)Robustly defend Agenda for Change terms at local level through the provision of advice and support to regions and branches, including:

a)identification of effective and appropriate industrial, legal and organising responses to threats;

b)developing procedures for monitoring and sharing information about threats to Agenda for Change;

c)rolling out branch training course/s on Agenda for Change related issues.

6) Continue to press for application of Agenda for Change for non-NHS staff delivering NHS services including for private contractors.