Unison Leadership Censured Over Pay Retreat

North East London Council of Action demonstration in Enfield on February 2nd demanding that Chase Farm Hospital be kept open
North East London Council of Action demonstration in Enfield on February 2nd demanding that Chase Farm Hospital be kept open

MOTIONS censuring the union’s leadership are being discussed at the Unison Health Care Service Group Annual Conference being held in Glasgow on 22 – 24 April 2013.

Members are upset over the Unison leadership’s acceptance of detrimental changes to Agenda for Change national pay and terms and conditions, while Unite and the GMB opposed the government’s changes.

Unite and GMB lobbied a meeting of NHS Staff Council representatives on February 26 this year where Unison and the RCN caved in to the government.

At the time, Sarah Cook, Unite’s London lead officer for health, told News Line: ‘Some of the unions completely oppose the changes – Unite, the GMB, the Society of Radiographers, the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, and the Federation of Clinical Scientists.

‘We believe these are national terms and conditions and should remain so.

‘Our view is the changes will open the door to further attacks on our terms and conditions.

‘The South West Cartel, who started this whole thing off, have already said the changes proposed don’t go far enough.

‘We contend the changes will lead to local pay in the longer term. It’s all part of breaking up the NHS.

‘Unite will fight and campaign to oppose changes at local level and build for a national demonstration on 18th May to keep the NHS public.’

Bromley local government Unite branch secretary Adam Jenkins added: ‘We’re lobbying the staff side because we are against the changes to Agenda for Change which Unison seems to be agreeing with.

‘The proposed changes will affect our members in the NHS. It will upset their terms and conditions and rights that they fought for for years.’

Ann Crozier, Unite shop steward at Nine Wells Hospital, Dundee, said: ‘We’re here to defend the NHS against all the privatisation that is going on.

‘What happens here will affect us in Scotland.

‘People’s care is suffering. They are getting conned by this government.’

Unite Irish executive member Tracey Osment from Dublin told News Line: ‘We’re here because we’ve already had these cuts in Ireland.

‘Now the Dublin government want another eight per cent cut in our wages for public sector workers.’

Ian Evans, Unite healthcare scientists chair, said: ‘We don’t agree with the proposed changes in our terms and conditions.

‘If we let these go through, the NHS employers will come back and expect us to give up more.

‘We have to convince members of other unions that this option isn’t the right one.’

Among the motions listed on the Unison Health service Group conference Final Agenda, published at the weekend, is: 14. Defence of national pay and conditions

It states: ‘This conference censures the Health Service Group Executive for its failure to launch a national campaign for industrial action in defence of NHS pay, terms and conditions and instructs the HSGE to take immediate steps to remedy this.

‘Conference believes that concession bargaining, as an alternative to organising and laying the groundwork for collective action, is not an effective strategy to strengthen either our negotiating hand or our union. Appeasement provides us with no defence against further similar attacks by our employers. The more terms and conditions are chipped away, the more possible it is for our health services to be privatised and decimated.

‘Conference recognises that many activists feel that members’ confidence is low, but concession bargaining will not change this reality. A report from this year’s national delegate conference on the UNISON Scotland website outlines that the opposite is true: “Speaker after speaker reported how building for 30 November had really helped recruitment. As soon as general secretary Dave Prentis announced that pensions will be the issue we will fight on, Unison’s membership began to rise. People were joining to strike. Collective cross-sector action gave confidence to members.”

‘Unison chose to campaign and agitate massively around the pensions dispute, and must do so again now to protect NHS pay, terms and conditions.

‘Conference instructs the HSGE to:

‘1) work with the NEC to urgently commit resources for organising at branch level to build member morale. This should include greater regional support to alleviate branch activists’ individual representation caseloads;

‘2) highlight to members the threat of privatisation as a direct possible outcome of degraded terms and conditions;

‘3) reaffirm to members Unison’s willingness to fight to maintain our national agreement in its current format.’

NHSBT West Midlands

15. Defence of national pay and conditions states:

‘This Conference censures the Health Service Group Executive for its failure to launch a national campaign for industrial action in defence of NHS pay, terms and conditions and instructs the HSGE to take immediate steps to remedy this.’

Oxfordshire Health Services

Unison members have also been shocked and angered at a proposal, put to the Health Service Group Executive, that the union offer to take cuts in members’ jobs, pay, pensions, and terms and conditions for the next two and a half years in the hope that a new (hopefully Labour) government will restore them.

18. No to concession bargaining states:

‘This Conference notes that the SGE has debated how to deal with the increasing demands on our members’ terms and conditions by this government, to make us pay for the debts caused by the financial crisis of the banks.

‘The SGE debated two options:

‘a) To concession bargain (to give up certain terms conditions, pay rises, or increased pensions, work longer, lose jobs and services etc) for the next two and a half years and hope the next government will restore what we have given up.

‘b) To draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough and defend all attacks through all the means we have at our disposal.

‘This Conference believes that with less than 15% of the government’s cuts having been achieved, we have no alternative but to draw a line in the sand. The so-called £20 billion in efficiency savings (cuts) will only be found by attacking health workers’ terms and conditions and further impoverishing our members. We also believe that this government plans a further £20 billion in efficiency savings in the NHS budget from 2015 and therefore have no choice but to prepare our members to defend all our terms and conditions.

‘This Conference therefore believes the SGE must:

‘1) draw a line in the sand and prepare our health members for the struggles ahead;

‘2) continue to argue for the union’s alternative to austerity and expose the inherent waste in the NHS through the involvement of market forces;

‘3) only use the words “efficiency savings” when savings are made through becoming more effective, ie when a new method or treatment is introduced that doesn’t affect members’ pay, terms and conditions, otherwise it is a cut and we should say so. Cutting our pay does not increase efficiency unless you’re a capitalist out to make a profit;

‘4) expose all those that wish to cut our pay, terms and conditions.’

Bucks Health

Anger over privatisation and savage cuts in disabled people’s benefits sees a resolution calling for action against Atos which has a DWP contract to carry out the ‘fit to work’ tests.

28. Atos Healthcare – conflict of interest states:

‘Eastern Region’s Health Committee are concerned that the company Atos Healthcare (a business division of Atos Origin) provide occupational health services to a large number of NHS organisations yet are also the NHS Pensions Agency’s medical advisors.

‘We consider this to be a (potential) conflict of interests and would question the appropriateness of an Atos occupational health physician assessing an individual’s suitability for ill-health retirement whilst also acting as medical advisors for the organisation to whom that same individual will be making their application.

‘Given that public service pensions have come under attack of late and that it is proving increasingly difficult for NHS staff to achieve success with their ill-health applications, it could be reasonably argued that by having a “foot in both camps”, Atos’s impartiality is compromised.

‘Conference therefore calls upon the Service Group Executive to:

‘1) support the opposition of Atos Healthcare being awarded contracts for NHS occupational health provision and to organise a campaign of opposition;

‘2) lobby the government to provide an independent panel of experts to provide medical advisors to the NHS Pensions Agency.’

Eastern Regional Health Committee

Anger over job cuts and the coalition’s drive to smash district general hospitals and privatise the NHS through a programme of A&E and Maternity closures has obliged the Unison Health Service Group Executive to put forward a motion that calls on Labour to repeal the Health and Social Care Act.

Branch amendments call for a national demonstration but not occupations or national strike action.

The motion 42. Privatisation and procurement states:

‘Conference condemns the coalition government’s health plans for England that are already affecting the quality of services and the lives of health staff – just as Unison warned they would.’

It concludes: ‘Conference therefore calls upon the Health Service Group Executive to work with other parts of the union to:

‘1) continue opposing the privatisation, marketisation and fragmentation of the NHS;

‘2) monitor the extent and impact of privatisation from the point of view of staff, patients and services;

‘3) expose and oppose private management takeovers of hospitals, while challenging the wider commercialisation of the NHS;

‘4) seek to exert influence within the new structures to protect the NHS from privatisation and cuts;

‘5) support regions, branches, activists and members in fighting privatisation by building the capacity to resist the use of procurement processes or achieving the best possible outcomes when services are forced down this path;

‘6) ensure that the union follows our members if they are removed from NHS employment to work for companies or in the community and voluntary sector;

‘7) use our campaigning to boost the union’s recruitment and organising prospects;

‘8) work to maintain strong alliances in defence of the NHS with the TUC, other trade unions, charities, patient groups and health campaigners; and

‘9) hold the Labour party to its commitment to repeal the Health and Social Care Act.’

Health Service Group Executive

Amendment 42.1 states: ‘After fourth paragraph insert new paragraph: “Conference is concerned that Clinical Commissioning Groups are already funding private sector consultants to report and make recommendations about future commissioning arrangements such as the mental health strategies report commissioned by Central Manchester CCG”.’

Manchester Community and Mental Health

Amendment 42.2 states: ‘In action point 7, insert at beginning: “defend the jobs, terms and conditions of members and”

‘In action point 9: amend the word “party” to “Party” and add at end: “and to call on the Labour Party to reverse the effects of the Health and Social Care Act;”

‘Add new action point 10 “10) call a national demonstration in defence of the NHS”.’

South Derbyshire Healthcare

Amendment 42.3 states: ‘Add at the end of action point 9 add: “and to reverse all privatisation carried out under this Condem Govt and the previous Labour Govt, as well as committing to end the crippling PFI debts many trusts face”.’

Bucks Health

Amendment 42.4 states: ‘Add new action point 10: “10) Call a national demonstration in defence of our NHS”.’

Waltham Forest Health

What is striking about the Unison health conference agenda is the absence of a single motion calling for action to stop the closure of hospitals such as Chase Farm in Enfield, where Unison is also refusing to defend its members’ jobs.

Instead, admin staff members at the Barnet and Chase Farm Trust, who have been sent out redundancy notices, are being told all Unison will do is support them ‘through any organisational change and where it is believed the employer has not properly engaged with staff’.

The planned ‘organisational changes’ are the closure of Chase Farm A&E. Maternity and Paediatrics departments!

Clearly Unison needs a new leadership that will do all that is necessary to defend every hospital and every job.