Future Pay Determination in the NHS

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Conference
2014 Health Care Service Group Conference
Date
1 January 2014
Decision

Conference believes that since the election of the Tory-led coalition, the remit issued by the Government to the Pay Review Body (PRB) each year has been so restrictive as to remove any genuinely independent process from establishing NHS Pay. In effect each of the remits has purely asked the PRB to recommend how the Government’s pay policy should be implemented rather than making an independent assessment.

Conference notes that the NHS PRB themselves have raised concerns around the constraints they have been put under and the importance of an independent process in maintaining the confidence of Agenda for Change staff. Conference has therefore lost faith in the PRB process.

Conference notes motions 19 and 21 carried at Health Conference 2013 that set out the union’s policy in relation to the PRB and future pay determination in the NHS. The motions recognised growing frustration with both the outcome of the PRB process and the political restrictions placed on it and instructed the health care service group (HSGE) to consult on the union’s position on how pay should be determined in the future.

Conference further notes the consultation on future pay determination that took place via UNISON health committees in the English regions and devolved nations between September and November 2013 and recognises the following outcomes:

1) Health committees were very critical of the political interference with the PRB, with UK governments setting limits or freezes on pay. It was recognised that in the past number of years the PRB has not delivered for members, but most health committees believed that this is due to the government’s public sector pay policy compromising the independence of the PRB. However, in general it was felt that it was best to continue to be involved with the current arrangements and for UNISON to engage with the PRB to determine pay in the NHS.

2) Health committees noted that when the PRB had a wider, independent remit, in general, delivered more advantageous pay uplifts than compared to negotiated settlements in other public sector organisations. Although most health committees supported UNISON continuing to be involved in the current pay determination system, they highlighted the need to campaign for a more transparent, democratic and independent PRB.

3) In the long term, health committees felt that if a more independent PRB could not be achieved, the possibilities of a new system of collective bargaining, whose outcomes could be enforced across NHS employers, should be explored with employers, other NHS staff side organisations and the UK government.

4) Health committees highlighted that engaging members on the mechanisms of pay determination would prove problematic. Feedback from members is that they are more worried about job security, pay and conditions than the mechanism for setting pay.

Conference therefore calls upon the Health Service Group Executive to:

a)highlight the political interference with the PRB and campaign for a more transparent, democratic and independent PRB;

b)use our agreed political routes to lobby for the NHS PRB to be a genuinely independent body for establishing NHS Pay;

c)continue to use the PRB as the preferred mechanism for making recommendations to government on pay in the NHS;

d)identify a potential route for enshrining the remit of the PRB in statute;

e)work with other NHS staff side organisations to challenge the government’s public sector pay policy and campaign with branches and members to highlight UNISON’s pay campaign.

f)explore how a new system of collective bargaining over pay and conditions with employers and the governments of the UK and the devolved nations could be achieved if independence cannot be achieved.