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Unions oppose NHS pay-cutting ring

October 8, 2012 7:56 PM

Hospitals in South-West England are combining to form a cartel with the aim of cutting costs by forcing down wages for their staff. Here's what the representatives of the region's doctors, nurses, and other NHS employees, have to say about it:

"Twenty NHS trusts in the South West have joined together to form 'The South West pay, terms and conditions consortium', or what has become known as the 'Pay Cartel'. This cartel aims to cut costs by moving away from the current national NHS pay system 'Agenda for Change'. Its proposals would lead to a reduction of income in real terms to staff already hit hard by cuts to the public sector and would therefore damage the local economy.

We believe there are a number of reasons why the Cartel's proposals should be opposed. Firstly the South West has highly deprived areas and we believe that any weakening of the spending power of the NHS workforce in the region will seriously damage the local economy. At a time when local businesses are struggling in a difficult economic climate, driving down the wages of thousands of health care workers will have a devastating impact.

The Cartel's plans will also have serious implications for patient care. For example, if changes to pay, terms and conditions are imposed in the South West, but South Wales and the Midlands continue to pay existing rates, employment patterns are likely to respond accordingly across the borders. The South West could lose skilled staff to higher paying area, with a devastating impact on the quality of care delivered to NHS patients in the South West. This could drive up health inequalities in the region compared to the rest of the UK.

Each of the 20 trust who form the Cartel has paid £10,000 of NHS money to join at a time when budgets for front-line patient care are being squeezed. We question any diversion of funds from patient care in this manner. NHS trade unions remain ready and willing to work with individual employers to find long term solutions to their financial challenges whilst ensuring patient care remains their top priority, as we always have.

National bargaining is the most efficient means for determing pay for the complex workforces delivering health services. The national pay system is ... designed to ensure equal pay for work of equal value. Regional pay will result in local negotiations resulting in expensive and inefficient negotiating every year for employers. The proposals by the Cartel could result in unfair dismissal claims after any 'dismiss and re-engage process, a possibility referred to in the Cartel's documentation. Regional pay also places employers at risk of potential equal pay claims. As a result, a short-term move to save money will actually see an increased cost to the public purse.

On August 22nd the unions stated: We do not recognise this pay Cartel. NHS staff are paid on national terms and conditions and any negotiations to alter them should be on a national level. This organisation has no status, or authority to enter into negotiations, and the Trades Unions will therefore not be engaging with any proposals made by the Cartel to cut pay, terms and conditions of our members."

Local hospitals conniving with the scheme include RUH Bath, Great Western Swindon, and Salisbury.