Launch a national challenge to Hunt’s divisive pay strategy

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2014 Health Care Service Group Conference
7 April 2014

Conference notes that on 13 March 2014 Secretary of State Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt released the 28th Report of the NHS Pay Review Body and announced the Department of Health’s pay policy for NHS Staff in England from 1 April 2014. Subsequent announcements were made by Ministers in Scotland and Wales about the pay uplift for staff in those countries.

Central Government ignored the NHS Pay Review Body’s recommendation that a UK-wide uplift of 1% should be applied to all pay points. While the Government in Scotland has confirmed that it will implement the recommended 1% and make additional changes to uplift to current Living Wage rates, the Secretary of State for Health has announced he intends to award a 1% non-consolidated sum to only those staff at the top of their pay bands in England. The award also confirms this model will be repeated for 2015-16 unless staff unions are prepared to agree a freeze to incremental progression. In Cymru/Wales, the Government will enter discussions with the NHS Trade Unions about how the pay uplift is applied. No decisions have yet been announced about the intentions for NHS pay in Northern Ireland.

Conference is horrified at the proposed 2014-15 NHS pay package announced on 13 March because of the implications both for members and for the future of pay in the NHS.

In addition to falling far short of member expectations, the approach taken by the Westminster Government deliberately fractures NHS pay as a UK wide term, forcing the UK countries towards a divergent approach to pay for the future.

In the weeks following the announcements, UNISON branches and regions have taken soundings from members about the pay settlement. Feedback indicates that there are high levels of anger, particularly around:

• the creation of different rates of pay in different parts of the UK

• the divisive nature of awarding only to those at the top of their band and not consolidating this sum (England)

• the conflation of incremental progression and the annual cost of living uplift

• the inability of the pay settlement to meet increases in cost of living

• the threat of the same settlement next year

Members are clear that they want to see UNISON doing something in response to what is considered an unfair and deliberately provocative settlement. Conference is clear that unless the staff side responds robustly to this, members will be subject to a pay freeze until at least 2016, with the relative status of NHS employment dwindling year on year; NHS pay will no longer be UK-wide; and subsequent Governments will receive a clear message that staff will not put up a fight when cuts are made to their terms and conditions. This is not to mention the impact that depleted morale will exert over the quality of care and the ability of the NHS workforce to meet the challenges ahead.

Conference therefore calls on the service group to:

1. Reject the proposed package for the 2014-15 pay round for NHS staff in England

2. Make NHS pay the major focus for the Service Group for 2014, as a key element of the union’s core ‘Worth it’ campaign

The campaign will need to engage and influence our membership as well as parliamentarians, opinion-formers and the public in all four countries. The campaign will:

a. Act as an effective protest against the despicable treatment of health staff in 2014

b. Seek a commitment from the Westminster Government to reinstate full funding of NHS budgets

c. Seek to commit the current and potential future Ministers within the four UK governments to deliver an NHS settlement which:

i. Starts to reinstate the value of NHS pay lost since 2010

ii. Re-instates UK wide pay scales across the NHS by uplifting to the best achievable rates

iii. Contains an active political commitment from all four UK countries to national bargaining structures and to maintaining and promoting Agenda for Change terms and conditions and the structures that support them

A key element of the campaign will be an industrial strategy which:

iv. Incorporates both protest and formal action, up to and including lawful strike action

v. Aims to ensure support from activists, members and the public and maintain the momentum on pay as an issue among our membership

vi. Is set out in clear plans from the service group executive following active involvement of regions

vii. Is co-ordinated with plans for protest and action by other NHS trade unions

viii. Is linked and -where possible – co-ordinated with plans for action and protest on pay across the public sector trade unions

In order to deliver this strategy conference calls on the Service Group to:

d. Request a ballot of NHS members for both strike action and action short of strike action

e. Work with branches and regions to start the preparatory work for such a ballot immediately following conference.

The Service Group is also asked to

f. Submit a claim to the NHS Staff Council (or appropriate country-wide partnership forums) calling for employers to pay a top-up sum to those staff whose earnings fall short of the Living Wage before the end of July 2014. The industrial strategy will be supported by a programme of organising and communications work to get members engaged and involved; recruit new members and raise UNISON’s profile in every workplace.

Conference does not underestimate the amount of work required at all levels to deliver this campaign effectively and calls on the service group executive to prioritise this campaign over other areas of work during 2014.