Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/294/13979
Reject Agenda For Change
Government Plans Wage Cuts For NHS Staff
ALL NHS workers know that they are underpaid, undervalued. and overworked. But New Labour's latest Agenda For Change (AFC) proposals do nothing to improve our situation.
Brian Loader, NHS Logistics UNISON steward, personal capacity
One of the biggest scandals of AFC is that health workers on protected pay will not get any annual cost of living rises after the three-year pay deal, until their colleagues have reached their spine point. This period could last for five years. After that they will immediately lose part of their salary if they are still paid more!
The proposals claim less than 8% of NHS staff will be worse off and will receive protection. They don't say how many will actually benefit.
Worryingly, the National Retention Allowances are subject to the financial constraints of the Trusts/NHS authority's budgets, government spending and the local economy. If you live in an area of high unemployment and/or low wages, trusts can downgrade pay and conditions. Worcestershire Trusts are already having to borrow £7.5 million from the Strategic Health Authority to pay staff their March wages.
New Labour have underfunded AFC, only allowing for about £300 per worker per year. Yet they will no doubt be able to find the cost of the war in Iraq.
The 7.5% increase for the very low paid - mainly women working in poor conditions - will take their salary to just above £5.00 per hour. But this will do very little to tackle poverty wages in the NHS.
All these rises will be immediately swallowed up by increases in National Insurance contributions and Council Tax rises.
Health workers' anger has pushed the health service group executive to table an emergency motion to the UNISON health conference calling for two ballots.
The first will be held this May with a recommendation to go ahead with the implementation of AFC in 12 pilot schemes, linked to the acceptance of the three-year pay offer.
The second ballot in 2004 would determine whether UNISON should go forward with AFC for the rest of the NHS, including the remaining two years of the pay offer.
Socialist Party members urge health conference delegates and UNISON members to reject AFC.
Dave Prentis, UNISON general secretary, says rejection would lead to fragmentation within our health membership and isolation from other NHS trade unions. But UNISON is the biggest health service union. He should take a lead from branches such as Sunderland and Glasgow, which have won upgrades for medical secretaries, the Carlisle equal pay campaign and Wakefield in their campaign against PFI.
Many health workers will ask why UNISON continues to pay money into the Labour Party for the Labour government to kick them in the teeth. The Socialist Party calls for UNISON to break with Labour and campaign with other unions for a new mass workers' party.
- Reject AFC and the derisory 10% pay increase over three years.
- Reject wage cuts - fight for a one-year pay deal of 6% or £1,200 for all NHS workers, as a step towards a legal minimum of £8 per hour or £320 per week.
- For the working week to be a maximum of 35 hours without loss of pay.
For copies of the Socialist Party leaflet on AFC, ring 020 8988 8764.
In The Socialist 4 April 2003: