Coalition mounts low-pay offensive on NHS!

BMA demonstration on March 8 against the NHS Health Bill just before it became law
BMA demonstration on March 8 against the NHS Health Bill just before it became law

Public sector union Unison yesterday slammed Health Secretary Lansley’s backing for Chancellor Osborne’s plan for regional pay.

This comes in evidence from the Department of Health submitted to the NHS Pay Review Body that calls for ‘market facing’ regional pay for all staff on Agenda for Change.

Unison said in a statement that Agenda for Change ‘was brought in partly to solve the many problems associated with diverse and local pay. And yet here we are, before the system has bedded in properly, with another attempt to go local.’

It added: ‘There is no national “market” for health staff outside of the NHS and to pretend that staff like Occupational Therapists, Cancer Nurses, Paramedics and Operating Department Practioners can be recruited in the same way as any other jobholder in a town who happens to earn the same amount is simply misguided.

‘We don’t accept there is an equivalent market for skilled health workers.’

The Union added: ‘It is also telling that the evidence from the DH flags up the main problem – that instructing employers to pay more in particular areas won’t necessarily mean that the funding will follow.’

Christina McAnea, Unison Head of Health, said: ‘For a government that says it wants to cut paperwork, introducing regional pay would be a massively expensive, bureaucratic nightmare, designed to cause huge disruption and conflict.

‘Regional pay would cause skills shortages in so-called low cost areas with nurses, midwives and specialised staff being hard to recruit and retain, hitting the care of patients.

‘The government want to introduce a market ethos into the NHS but most private companies abandoned regional pay scales years ago as divisive and unworkable.

‘The NHS is already struggling to find billions in so called efficiency savings and with no extra money promised to fund higher cost areas, the money would have to come from existing budgets.’

BMA Council member Anna Athow said: ‘Fresh from pushing the Health and Social Care Act through parliament on 20th March, Tory Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is pressing ahead with tearing up national terms and conditions of NHS Staff.

‘He started with pensions and now wants to smash up national pay contracts.

‘He backs a submission made by the Department of Health to the NHS Pay Review Body, calling for “market facing” regional pay for all staff on Agenda for Change.

‘It would be but a matter of time before he came for doctors as well.

‘This policy is absolutely to do with driving down pay and conditions to help the new private companies to snap up NHS contracts on the open market ushered in by the Health Act.

‘The imposition of local pay will fragment the workforce and enable employers to pick off groups of workers and drive down their pay and conditions, undermining the unions as a national fighting force to defend liveable national standards.

‘The BMA and all the health unions have to absolutely answer this attack in kind. At the first attempt to abolish national pay there must be the calling of immediate joint strike action by all the unions.

‘The lessons of the total sell out by the unions of the imposition of the Health Bill have to learned. There must be no more marking time and collaboration.’