Agenda for Change pay scales – Don’t scrap the system, make it better!

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2016 Health Care Service Group Conference
11 December 2015

Consistent underfunding of the NHS since 2010, the refusal of the Westminster Government to support Agenda for Change and local pressure from irresponsible employers has meant we have spent the last five years defending rather than improving our national agreement.

As a result, we have an agreement which we are committed to fight for, but which many of our members are dissatisfied with. Common gripes include:

• widespread downbanding

• high percentages of staff stuck at the top of pay bands; with no opportunities for promotion and paltry pay rises

• massive mis-match between the time it takes to become fully competent in a role and to receive the full rate of pay

• members doing the same jobs in different organisations on different bands

• huge band overlaps meaning staff doing jobs with a higher job weight often have to work for several years to get more money that the band below

• Pay supplements have not been uprated over the last few years to match even the paltry increases to the pay scales

With the Chancellor refusing to give the NHS the financial boost it needs to bring it up to average European levels of spending, we recognise that making progress in these talks will be challenging. However, they still represent the only chance we have to mend the 4-country fracture in our pay structure, to give members access to something more hopeful than a measly 1% each year and to secure the future of Agenda for Change. For these reasons, conference supports UNISON’s ongoing stewardship of these negotiations and to use the AfC refresh talks to:

i)Return to UK-wide NHS pay scales, using Scotland rates as an absolute minimum starting point

ii)Reduce the time it takes NHS staff to get the ‘full rate’ for the job by shortening pay bands

iii)Establish the principle that the current top of the bands reflects the ‘full rate’ for the job

iv)Introduce the Real Living Wage as a floor for NHS pay scales,- uprated each year in line with the figures from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation

v)Restate members’ rights to have their jobs re-matched or re-evaluated if they have changed over time

vi)Reinvest in the Job Evaluation system and in ways to make outcomes consistent within and between organisations and across all four UK countries

vii)Tackle downbanding by introducing automatic re-evaluation after an agreed period of time

viii)Support progression through and between bands in line with the principles of the KSF and not through performance measures or quota systems

ix)Protect the value of the Agenda for Change package for all members and ensure that pay supplements do not lag behind the costs they are supposed to reflect

If the talks do progress and result in a package of proposals, members will need to be clear about what changes are being put forward, and given time to understand what the impact might be. The way that the Westminster Government has handled recent national negotiations provides a useful ‘how not to’ guide. Detailed consideration will also need to be given to the scope of application of any proposals across the UK, so it will be vital that country health committees are clear about how the proposals would apply within the jurisdiction of the devolved parliaments.

a)Drip-feeding causes confusion. Members should be kept informed of progress with the talks, albeit on the basis that nothing will be agreed until the whole package is ready for consultation.

b)If the talks do result in proposals for consultation, The HSGE will set out clear options about how this consultation will happen, for consideration and agreement by regional health committees; with prior liaison and agreement with country committees over the scope and application of both the proposals and consultations in Scotland, Cymru/Wales and Northern Ireland.

c)Some joint materials with employers should be produced, so that members are not subjected to the ‘sound and fury’ approach taken with the Junior Doctors’ contract proposals, and have facts about what is proposed rather than partisan interpretation.