The NHS Staff Council met yesterday and endorsed the proposals, which were accepted by UNISON in February (see HC-010-13 Consultation on Agenda for Change Proposals in England shows support for acceptance). UNISON supported the proposals on the basis that agreeing changes to Agenda for Change provided the best chance of preserving the national agreement and limiting the number of Trusts seeking to break away from national terms.
The changes to the national agreement include creating greater links between performance and incremental progression; removal of unsocial hours enhancements from sick pay and removal of the accelerated progression for new entrants to band 5; along with an additional set of principles to protect against the worst aspects of downbanding. Details of the changes can be found in UNISON’s briefing available from: http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/UNISON_Briefing_AfC_proposals.pdf. Other materials, including FAQs, can be found here: http://www.unison.org.uk/healthcare/a4c/consultation.asp. There is significant work still to do before the changes are incorporated into the NHS Terms and Conditions of Service Handbook, including agreement of joint guidance for local JSCs on implementation and equality monitoring issues.
The changes had not been accepted by all NHS trade unions, with the Society of Radiographers, the Federation of Clinical Scientists, The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, GMB and Unite voting to reject – citing concerns about the impact on staff in bands 8c,d,and 9 and disagreement with the strategy of agreeing changes to preserve national bargaining, and the fact that the changes were England-only as reasons for their opposition. However, the 10 unions which accepted represent over 85% of NHS members which means that the official staff side position was to accept the changes. It is clear that some unions do not accept collective responsibility for the democratic process and have since signalled their intention to campaign against the introduction of the changes.
Some are arguing that as the employers wouldn’t impose the changes nationally, the unions should not have accepted. However it was very clear to the unions that the consequences of not reaching an agreement at national level would have led to a significant increase in the number of local employers breaking away from AfC and/or implementing local changes – which could have been far worse and would have seriously weakened the national agreement and meant having to fight on a trust by trust basis. In agreeing the changes, UNISON sent a strong warning to employers that they expect them to stick to the agreement and that any moves from ‘rogue trusts’ would be met with strong resistance.
Further advice and information about what the proposals mean, including an FAQ, will follow.