Monday, January 10, 2011

UNISON Health workers reject divisive 2 year pay freeze

This is the official UNISON press release "Members of UNISON’s Health Service Group Executive have today rejected a two-year freeze on pay increments, on top of the pay freeze imposed by the Government.

NHS Employers had offered a no compulsory redundancy agreement in return for the freeze. Members rejected the deal because there was no guarantee that all employers would abide by it. It would not be binding, but left to individual Trusts to decide whether or not to offer the guarantee.

Mike Jackson, Senior National Officer for Health said: “The Service Group Executive said today that they could not support a further pay freeze for nurses, paramedics and other low paid, mainly women workers. “The funding gap in the NHS is so great that members were sceptical that Trusts would abide by a no compulsory redundancy agreement for two years.  “Additionally they felt that the offer was divisive because it excluded high level clinicians, such as matrons, senior occupational therapists and midwife supervisors.”

While these pearls of wisdom to his members are from London Ambulance UNISON branch secretary Eric Roberts (left in picture with broad smile next to UNISON London regional conveyor Gloria Hanson on G20 March 2009)

"Dear all,

Just to keep you in the picture concerning the proposal from NHS Employers and to inform you of my contribution on behalf of the Branch and the Union next week.

On Monday I am attending an extraordinary National Ambulance Sector meeting and straight after that I am attending an extraordinary Health Service Group Executive meeting 

There is one agenda item. That is to agree or not to agree that the Union should enter into negotiations (tentative or otherwise) with the NHS Employers to accept an AfC incremental freeze (on top of the planned pay freeze) in return for an agreement concerning compulsory redundancies within the NHS.

That is the core of the agreement although there is also mention of a freeze in employee pension contributions and other fringe add on’s. This part has yet to be finalised. 

Although most people were not happy, most accepted the simple understanding that the pay freeze may well save jobs, and on that basis bit their tongues.  What is being asked this time is totally different.

These are important meetings that will decide how the Union deals with the Coalition regarding Health. This is a big decision on a lot of levels.  I intend to vote no. I will speak against the Union entering this type of agreement. I will vote no and speak against at both meetings.

I believe that it is obscene that health workers are being blackmailed and held to ransom by this Government and that we are being asked to take the responsibility for the NHS finances, while at the same time being to blame if any jobs go.

I realize of course that any way I vote has consequences. If I vote for it then our members will not only have a pay freeze but will also not have their contractual right of an incremental pay spine rise.

If I vote against then the spectre of compulsory redundancies will be laid at our door with the accusation of being selfish and not caring. I believe in Partnership but this is not partnership. This is a gun held cynically to the Union’s head.

My guess is that the Ambulance Sector as a body will vote no. It is a fact of course that ambulance services will not be as cut as many other health organisations and that may well influence a lot of the vote.  The SGE is another matter. Many members there will be facing huge job losses back at their trusts and will have a huge struggle with their conscience.

I do not know how the vote will go at that meeting.  Dave Prentis has said that ‘Our time has come’!

Unison is big enough to stand on it’s own two feet (or it’s 1.5 million x 2 feet!). The financial crisis is not the fault of health workers. Of course there is always a chance that more information will be made available and the deal being sought is not what we think.

I do not also know what the other health unions will decide.  I know that you trust me to make the right decision.  I will update you all at the Branch Committee meeting.

Best wishes  
Eric
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