PROPOSAL BY NHS EMPLOYERS (ENGLAND) ON JOB SECURITY, PAY PROGRESSION AND AGENDA FOR CHANGE

Dear Colleague,

This Branch Circular is to provide you with a copy of a proposal made by NHS Employers at the NHS Staff Council Executive Meeting on 10th December 2010, to describe the background to these developments and to describe the next steps. 

In September 2010 we communicated to you that branches in a number of Foundation Trusts (FTs) had warned that their employers were proposing to implement changes to Agenda for Change terms & conditions (HC-92-10). Since then a number of Foundation Trusts have implemented changes and many more are planning to do so either by local agreement or by unilateral action. 

As a result, the Trade Unions raised this development at the NHS Staff Council Executive meeting in September and there was a frank discussion about how the national collective agreement, Agenda for Change, might be protected and kept relevant during the financially difficult years ahead.

The NHS Staff Council Executive agreed to hold a ‘Chatham House’ meeting on 1st November to consider the forward challenges and pressures on our national collective agreement – Agenda for Change. At that meeting the employers’ side proposed a wide range of changes – a wish list – of terms and conditions they wished to re-negotiate. This included sick pay, annual leave, pay progression, unsocial hours pay, overtime, working week and redundancy pay. In all cases their proposals were to worsen the current conditions to save money.

When the trade union side asked whether anything was being offered in return, for example a no compulsory redundancy guarantee, the employers said not. It was agreed, without prejudice, that the employers’ proposals would be costed.

The attached document was tabled by employers at the December meeting of the NHS Staff Council Executive (held on Friday 10 December). It provides costings of the proposals made by the Employers on 1 November. This document also made a proposal that in return for agreement to freeze all (incremental) pay progression for 2 years, the employers would offer a deal that would provide a no compulsory redundancy guarantee for all staff on Bands 1 – 6, action to avoid redundancy for others, no changes to Agenda for Change, and a potential deferment of the 1% rise in employee pensions contributions. The document identifies that the ‘deal’ would be a framework only and implementation of the ‘deal’ would require the agreement of the local NHS Trust and local staff side.

The Staff Council Executive agreed broad processes, timelines and press lines.

In terms of process and timelines, the trade unions said that they were only receiving the document today (10 December 2010) and would consider and respond in due course.

 Trade unions sought clarification on the following issues:

  • What is the funding gap the employers are seeking to bridge?
  • What other savings are planned and how will they be achieved?
  • How many jobs are at risk, how many redundancies would be avoided?
  • Costings and data by pay band
  • How can FTs guarantee no compulsory redundancies?
  • Rationale for only guaranteeing Bands 1-6. Why not 7-9?
  • How many employers would sign up for this were it agreed?
  • Confirmation that if local staff side and members don’t sign up for this there is no agreement to apply a freeze on increments.
  • Is the deferral of the 1% pension contribution rise on offer or not?

The TUs said they would discuss with their governing bodies (in UNISON’s case the Health Service Group Executive) whether they wished to enter into negotiations without prejudice but that in any event, any final proposed agreement would require the endorsement of members.

That this potentially means a three stage process

a)    that the clarifications requested are provided first and that unions governing bodies consider individually and collectively whether they wish to negotiate on this proposal

b)    If agreed, a period for negotiation at the NHS Staff Council Executive

c)    A period for trade union consultation.

The trade unions said that they anticipated that this would probably take until the end of February.

The Management Side said this posed a risk that FTs may make other decisions by then (i.e. to reduce their paybill through redundancies and/or unilaterally changed pay, terms and conditions). Trade unions said we expected NHS Employers to show leadership and impress on FTs the need to back off and allow national discussions to take place unfettered by local pressures. We also said that we expected FTs that had already made changes to reverse them.

 In terms of press lines we agreed

  • That we would confirm that an offer of job security in return for further pay restraint had been received and provide details
  • That this is England only
  • That the TUs have sought further clarifications on the offer
  • That the NHSE and TUs will be discussing the next steps with their governing bodies.

The press release is attached but also on our web site http://www.unison.org.uk/asppresspack/pressrelease_view.asp?id=2084

National Officers are in urgent discussions with the Health Service Group Executive Chairing Team on arrangements for a special meeting of the HSGE to discuss this.

We will write to you again when there are further developments. In the meantime and in accordance with the advice in circular HC-92-10, any local proposals or plans by employers to alter Agenda for Change terms and conditions or consult on redundancies should be resisted and reported at once to your Regional Organiser.

 Yours sincerely

Karen Jennings

National Secretary

Health Group

UNISON

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