The NHS Staff Council yesterday agreed to alter the Agenda for Change Agreement for staff in England. Following extensive consultation with branches and members in England, UNISON voted to accept the proposals. UNISON, along with the 10 other unions that represent over 85% of members in the NHS, accepted the changes as the best way of maintaining a national agreement for health workers.
The choice was not the new proposals or the status quo. It was absolutely clear that the consequences of not reaching agreement, would be the breakdown of national bargaining, and many trusts would have left AfC and/or imposed local terms and conditions either for existing staff or new starters.
The unions opposing the changes represent around 15% of NHS members. Some claim that we did not need to accept any changes as the employers would not have imposed them. While this may be true, not accepting would have had serious consequences and put the whole national agreement at risk. And many trusts would have left AfC and imposed local terms and conditions. The other unions are well aware of this.
UNISON gave members full information and acted on their views – which showed a clear 63% majority in favour of accepting. We will continue to be honest with members. The choice was the new proposals and the likelihood that most trusts will stick with AfC, or reject and prepare to fight on a trust by trust basis.
UNISON has and will continue to take industrial action to protect members’ jobs, terms and conditions. We know that taking strike action is very serious for our members working in the NHS and we don’t threaten or take strikes lightly – but when we do employers know we follow through and deliver effective industrial action.
Empty rhetoric with no alternative strategy does not make a trade union strong and effective. Being honest, listening to members and acting on their views and decisions does that. We know members are genuinely worried about what these proposals will mean and we will be sending out additional information and FAQs. The NHS Staff Council also agreed to produce further joint guidance on how these proposals will be implemented locally.
If you are not in a union and want honest advice and support and to have your views and concerns treated seriously – Join UNISON.