THE DEAL reached last week between the majority of health unions and the Tories must be thrown out by NHS workers. The deal, which is being recommended by 12 of the 13 unions involved in the negotiations, is a treacherous sell-out of NHS workers’ pay that contains a poison pill for every trade union.
To their credit the GMB has come out and denounced it as a pay-cutting deal and is urging its members to vote against in the ballot due to take place over the next few months.
NHS workers’ pay was frozen for two years from 2011, and in the years since increases have been capped at 1%. Since 2010 the GMB estimates that paramedics have lost on average over £14,000, midwives £18,000 and staff nurses £14,500!
The headline increase that this new deal is offering is a pay offer of 6.5% spread over 3 years.
With RPI inflation set increase by 9.6% in the next three years this offer is yet another pay cut for NHS workers. This pay cut has been dressed up as a ‘victory’ for the unions on the basis that many of the lowest paid will get rises well above 6.5%, with extravagant claims that some will get up to 29% increases.
This cynical spin is based on including incremental payments that staff are already entitled to as they progress through the pay bands. The 52% who are currently at the top of their bandings will get nothing but the derisory 6.5%.
In fact buried deep within the 21-page document outlining the new pay offer is a statement that reveals the true nature of this agreement. This reads: ‘The intentions of the reforms to the pay structure is that by the end of the three year period . . . individuals will have the basic pay that is of greater value than under current expectations (which are defined as a 1% pay award per annum plus contractual increments).’ In other words the only ‘expectation’ is that workers will have a bit more than the Tory cap of 1% including incremental rises.
Under this proposed agreement, incremental increases will cease to be an automatic right with pay increasing on an annual basis. Instead, increments will be subject to individual negotiations between workers and their management with any increases being linked to ‘performance related’ appraisals.
No wonder Tory health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, crowed in parliament last week that he had put ‘appraisal and personal development at the heart of pay progression, with often automatic incremental pay replaced by larger less frequent pay increases, based on the achievement of agreed professional milestones’. This is performance related pay where every single worker is forced to negotiate their own pay increases with management who can rule that if targets are not met then no pay increase. Workers refused incremental pay increases could find themselves with pay increases actually below the existing 1% pay cap!
Forcing workers to negotiate their own pay undermines the very foundation of trade unions as organisations for collective bargaining, after all if workers are forced to negotiate their own pay then what good are unions for?
Now leaders of the biggest health unions like Unite and Unison are prepared to dump collective bargaining and leave their members as mere individuals to face the employer on their own.
These leaders must be thrown out and replaced by a leadership that will mobilise the huge militancy of NHS workers against this Tory government. Every NHS worker should follow the lead of the GMB and throw out this treacherous deal and demand a campaign of all-out industrial action around the demand for a real pay increase of 20% over three years, to begin making up for all the cuts of the past and protect their members from future inflation.
If the Tories will not concede, as they surely won’t, then the health unions must demand the TUC call a general strike to kick out the Tories and go forward to a workers government that will expropriate the bankers and use their vast wealth to fund the NHS and provide decent wages for every worker under a planned socialist economy.