Time to care for those who care, says UNISON

“Time to care for those who care” or face the prospect of massive industrial unrest is the message behind UNISON’s evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body (NHS PRB) being submitted today (22 October). Nurses, midwives, cooks, cleaners, paramedics and health care assistants are among the 450,000 NHS staff that UNISON represent and who have been hit hard by the Government’s two year pay freeze. It is time for change, says UNISON.

The union is highlighting the additional pressure on NHS staff from Trusts, such as the members of the South West Pay Cartel, which is not only freezing pay but also cutting existing terms and conditions of staff. UNISON is calling on the PRB to signal its strong support for Agenda for Change (the national pay system) to head off the risk of massive industrial unrest in the workforce in England over the coming year.

The PRB must recognise the enormous value of the work of staff and the strain that the pay freeze has caused them and their families, says the union. If the Government continues to undermine the independence of the NHS PRB and insist on imposing a 1% increase, inflation will have stripped between 8% and 12% off the value of NHS wages by 2013.

Christina McAnea, UNISON Head of Health, said:

“NHS staff are being hit from all sides. There are massive cuts to services and to jobs despite the fact that demands on the NHS are growing year by year. Inflation is taking a heavy toll on staff and their families who have not had a pay rise for two years while inflation is taking chunks out of their pay.

“We are urging the PRB to recognise the long-term damage that the Coalition’s pay policy is inflicting on the NHS.

“To add insult to injury, Trusts, like those who are members of the South West Pay Cartel, are planning to make cuts to the national terms and conditions of their staff to help them make the massive savings the Government is demanding. We are calling on the PRB to make its strong support for Agenda for Change clear or face the consequence that these rogue elements will threaten to stir up massive industrial unrest across the whole of the NHS in England.”

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY · The huge gap between NHS wage growth and inflation that opened up during 2010 has been sustained over the last two years. Inflation projections suggest that this scenario will continue if NHS pay is restricted to the 1% pay cap limit demanded by the government. As a consequence, inflation will have stripped between 8% and 12% out of the value of NHS wages by 2013.

· The competitive position of public sector pay against the private sector has been declining, with the gulf between private and public sector pay settlements growing ever larger over the last year and average earnings in the private sector running ahead of the public sector for most of the year.

· In the NHS, tiered pension contribution increases are likely to lead to a further reduction in take home pay, varying between 0% and 6% by 2015.

· The NHS non-medical workforce shrank by 2.1% over 2010/11. Thousands have suffered redundancy and estimates put expected job losses around the 50,000 mark.

· While staffing has been contracting, demand for services is on the rise across most of the NHS. Consequently, signs of stress are showing on the workforce through increased sickness absence rates and a marked deterioration in the results of the NHS staff survey, most notably in job satisfaction and motivation. Signs of stress are also showing on service delivery, with the largest fall ever recorded on public satisfaction levels by the British Social Attitudes Survey backed up by staff perceptions of decline in the quality of care. Furthermore, sustained pay suppression has undoubtedly fuelled industrial tension across the service.

· Incredibly, the vacancy data so crucial to assessing the competitive position of pay in the NHS has not been collected in England for the past two years. However, Scotland is showing vacancy rates on the rise.

· Projected commissioning of most professional groups within the NHS continued to show a decline after the major falls over 2011/12.

· It is anticipated that NHS finances will be under acute pressure from the Government’s reduction in the NHS financial settlement. Nonetheless, the NHS in England recorded a surplus of £1.6bn for the 2011/12 financial year and foundation trusts are predicting a further surplus of £326m. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also shown surpluses in their most recent accounts;

· The latest estimate of the impact of planned incremental rises from the Department of Health puts the annual increase in paybill costs at 1%, though a third of staff do not benefit from increments as they are at the top of their pay band.