By a UNISON healthworker
The 16,000-strong Society of Radiographers has rejected in a ballot the proposed new pay deal for the NHS, Agenda for Change (AfC). 83% voted no on a 67% turnout. As Solidarity went to press delegates from UNISON health branches were due to meet on 7 October to decide a recommendation for their union’s ballot on the issue. Amicus was also preparing to consult members on the deal.
Officials of all three unions want to see the deal accepted, but the membership is not convinced, and rightly so.
A year ago, the SoR was the only union to reject AfC. The other unions voted to “try out” the package in twelve Early Implementer (EI) sites. Only the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives positively accepted it. Now that the EI sites have had a year to test the proposals, the unions are balloting again.
The SoR leadership was recommending that Radiographers vote yes, despite seeing an increase in their working week of 2.5 hours, and the prospect of many members facing a pay freeze if the deal is brought in. The SoR special conference a month ago threw out a proposal that the ballot should carry a recommendation to vote yes, but the leadership continued to advocate their members endorse the proposals.
Similar struggles are going on in Amicus and UNISON, who will ballot later this month.
Amicus will not be making a recommendation. Amicus officials calculate that recommending a yes vote would alienate activists, and lead to a more vigorous “vote no” campaign.
The decision on what to recommend in the ballot will be made at the UNISON special conference. The leadership committee will advocate a yes recommendation but will face a lot of opposition, including from some of those involved in the Early Implementer sites.
A grassroots cross-union initiative in the form of an occasional newspaper, HealthWorker, has come out strongly against the deal. HealthWorker leaflets were circulated widely in the SoR, much to the annoyance of the union’s leadership.
Agenda for Change is being sold to health workers as a modernisation of an out-dated pay system in the NHS. In reality it is a way for NHS employers to avoid future legal action from staff using equal pay legislation.
In Carlisle, hospital staff continue to press a legal claim which is expected to net them many thousands of pounds. The government fears this case could be replicated across the NHS — long known for its miserly wages for its predominantly female workforce — and cost them up to £13 billion. Agenda for Change provides employers with a “job evaluation scheme” which they can use to justify all pay rates.
Under the guise of “harmonisation”, AfC also forces back the unions’ fight for a 35-hour week. All staff will work 37.5 hours — a reduction for some groups, but a significant increase in the working week for many others.
Some concessions have been won from the Government because the unions were clearly struggling to sell the deal to their members. But the SoR ballot result shows that healthworkers do not thing the revised deal is in their interests.
The best way to win further concessions is for UNISON and Amicus to reject the current proposal, and force the Government and the NHS employers back to the negotiating table.
Reject Agenda for Change! For a 35-hour working week and a living wage for all health workers!