UNISON today unveiled a proposal for a far-reaching modernisation of the NHS pay structure in England over the next three years, which would result in significant pay rises for every single member of staff and could turn the tide of the NHS staffing crisis.
The union has led intense and detailed negotiations over a number of months, which have resulted in the proposed framework agreement between NHS unions, employers and the government.
The key aim of the proposed agreement is to make the whole NHS pay system “fairer and better” for current and future staff.
In the first instance, over a million hospital porters, 999 call handlers, healthcare assistants, nurses, midwives and other NHS staff across England are being offered long-overdue pay rises of between 6.5% and 29% over the three-year period.
This could mean an increase for lower-paid staff that would take them above the living wage, substantial increases to starting salaries, meaningful pay rises on promotion, faster progression through most pay bands – and more.
The Treasury has committed to fully funding the proposals, to the tune of £4.2bn, which means that pay increases will not have to be met by cuts to jobs or patient care.
Now UNISON is putting the proposal to its NHS members – urging everyone to give their views on the deal and to vote in the consultation that will open in the middle of April.
UNISON head of health Sara Gorton, who was the lead pay negotiator for the NHS unions, said today: “Seven years of pay freezes and wage increases well below the cost of living meant significant financial hardship for health staff and their families.
“It’s also created headaches for employers as they’ve struggled to attract new recruits and hold onto experienced staff.
“The agreement would mean an end at last to the government’s self-defeating and unfair 1% pay cap. It won’t solve every problem in the NHS, but it would go a long way towards making dedicated health staff feel more valued, lift flagging morale and help turn the tide on employers’ staffing problems.
“These are only proposals,” she added. “The most important thing is for members to find out what it means to them and to tell us what they think. We have a website that will give people all the information they need, including a pay calculator that shows what would happen to their individual pay over the three years.
“All affected members will have a chance to have their say on NHS pay and to have a vote.”
The union will be emailing NHS members today with details of the proposals.
And UNISON has produced an activists’ briefing that will assist them when speaking with members about what the proposal would mean to them, available at www.unison.org.uk/nhspay18.
UNISON members have been fighting hard through the Pay Up Now! campaign to make the government act positively across public service pay.
When the annual NHS pay talks opened last September, UNISON led the health unions in submitting a claim that would move Chancellor Philip Hammond away from the government’s 1% pay policy.
That pressure paid off when, in the November budget, Mr Hammond announced there would be new money available for NHS pay – if agreement could be reached with employers and the unions.
Since then UNISON has spearheaded the complex negotiations. The union wanted the best deal possible for its members, which meant not just an immediate increase in pay but a long-term refresh of the Agenda for Change pay structure. The union sought to ensure that members would be better off at every stage of the reform.
The proposed framework includes:
- major increases for staff who are below the top of their bands, simplifying bands so that most staff reach the full rate for their job faster. This could be worth between 9% and 29% over the three years;
- meaningful increases for top-of-band staff – for most, this would be worth 6.5% over three years, plus a 1.1% lump sum in year two;
- removal of band overlaps, to ensure that promotion comes with a proper pay rise;
- ending poverty pay through an immediate move to a new minimum rate that is above the living wage, with further increases for the lowest-paid staff by the end of the deal;
- big improvements to starting salaries, to help the NHS attract and retain new staff.
Most terms and conditions would remain unchanged, including annual leave. There would be no fundamental changes to unsocial hours payments, though there would be adjustments affecting some staff to maintain the integrity of the system.
A majority of the NHS trade unions are recommending this agreement to their members, as they believe it is the best deal available through negotiation.
Adds Ms Gorton: “We think this offers a better alternative for members – and more certainty – than waiting around for the Pay Review Body to make recommendations each year.”
The proposed agreement will only apply to England, at least for now. If the proposals are accepted by members, the extra funding for English health budgets will go through the Barnett formula into budgets in Scotland, Cymru/Wales and Northern Ireland.
That will mean UNISON can enter talks in each country about whether and how to implement the agreement in a way that could work for them.
In England, the consultation of members opens in mid-April. Full details will be available, by that time, on the UNISON website at: www.unison.org.uk/nhspay18.
Details of the proposal, including the pay calculator, are available on a new, dedicated website: www.nhspay.org.