UNISON wins downbanding battle in Swindon

A successful organising campaign by UNISON has seen Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust withdraw plans to downband operating theatre jobs.

Under plans that were first presented to staff at Great Western Hospital in Swindon in October 2013, senior nurses and operating department practitioners would have had to re-apply to keep their current jobs.

Those who were unsuccessful would have had their pay cut by up to 19% or just over £6,500 a year on basic salary. 

The branch and regional organising staff reviewed the changes against the UNISON negotiators guide on Agenda for Change Annex X and organised a successful organising campaign that resulted in a complete rethink. By organising staff and recruiting heavily, the local branch increased their profile and made the trust sit up and listen.

Now, following months of talks with staff and UNISON representatives, the trust has shelved the changes and announced that no downbandings will take place. 

Area organiser Michael Sweetman said: “Our members in the operating theatre were overwhelmingly opposed to this idea. We are delighted that managers have decided to listen to their staff in time to avoid what could have become an unpleasant dispute.

“NHS staff are already on average 10% worse off than they were in 2010 because of the national pay freeze policy. The prospect of a 19% pay cut on top of this was a frightening one for our members and their families.”

Mr Sweetman described the union’s guide on Annex X as “really helpful”; “we used the points to successfully respond to the proposals, pointing out the impact on staff and patients.

“We argued that, if staff were downbanded, then they would need to see a corresponding reduction in their duties and responsibilities, which would pose a risk to patient safety. 

“Right now, the staff will just be feeling a sense of relief, and we are celebrating a victory for NHS workers showing that using an organising still works as well as ever.”

UNISON in health care

Key issue: defending Agenda for Change

UNISON South West