By Kate Ahrens, Unison NEC (personal capacity)
On a very close vote, Unison’s special health sector conference on 7 October decided to recommend that we vote yes to Agenda for Change (AfC), the government’s proposed new pay scheme for health workers. Unison health workers are now balloting on the scheme..
But that is only half the story. The conference was denied a card vote, which would have shown how evenly split the union is over the proposals. And Amicus, the other major union also balloting this month, has not made a recommendation either way.
The evidence presented by the supporters of AfC is scanty: a brief “EI Review” document which speculates on the outcomes for NHS staff based on the experience of less than half of the 35,000 staff in the Early Implementer sites, and a bagful of promises about how no-one will lose out.
Stacked against this is the direct experience of many staff in the EI sites, and the fears of many thousands of NHS workers: that we will lose pay; or face a pay freeze; or miss out on increments because a manager refuses to endorse our “knowledge and skills”; or have to work longer hours every week for the rest of our working lives.
When hospital consultants recently negotiated a new pay and conditions package, not one consultant needed pay protection. But nurses, secretaries and porters are told they have to settle for a deal which leaves one in twelve of us — at least — facing a pay freeze. This deal robs Peter to pay Pauline.We should not vote for it.
Even those who are doing well out of Agenda for Change are being cheated — most ambulance staff at the North East Ambulance Service, for instance, lose money on basic pay while they gain it on unsocial hours — they’re subsidising their own pay rise. And those who have been graded to a higher pay rate have been told they can’t have it unless the Trust sacks some people to pay for their pay rise!
The proposals will force over 200,000 people to work longer hours for the same pay — a key issue for radiographers, who voted in their ballot by 83% to 17% against Agenda for Change.
Their leadership, like Unison’s, told them it was a good deal, but their membership saw through it.