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From The Socialist newspaper, 29 August 2012

NHS: Unions must defend national pay bargaining

Unison and Unite NHS workers, Poole Dorset

Poole Hospital NHS Trust is one of the 20 trusts in the South West that have signed up to the South West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium, the real purpose of which is to reduce the wage bill.

The Trust management aims to do this through reviewing pay bands, introducing performance related pay (except for themselves no doubt!), increasing hours worked with no extra pay, reducing sick pay and cutting holiday pay.

Newly qualified staff will also not be allowed to progress up their pay bands through the removal of section 1.8 of the Agenda for Change pay and grading scheme.

This is based on the 'need' to reduce costs, which is driven by government demands to slash the NHS budget by a further 20 billion.

The aim of the consortium is to "reduce costs over the next three to four years and probably beyond" as stated in management's discussion document and its implementation will mean the breaking up of the Agenda for Change national pay bargaining scheme.

As a discussion document produced by Unison points out, the break-up of Agenda for Change will create workforce instability and increase costs by hospitals who adopt the cartel's proposals. Also there will be a loss of control over the pay system at national level, with NHS Trusts in the South West devising local agreements on pay and conditions.

National pay bargaining will be seriously weakened as a result, with regional pay levels becoming the norm.

Socialist Party members armed with leaflets and petitions have spoken to staff in several hospitals and have leafleted the nurses' home at Poole Hospital. We have had a very favourable reception, with workers taking supplies of our leaflets to deliver themselves. This has helped to back up the local union campaign.

But what has been the response of the unions nationally? Unison has taken the approach that the Agenda for Change should be defended, but has not clearly put forward a strategy for opposing the NHS bosses' proposals.

We've seen plenty of glossy leaflets, but you'll search forever to find any actual demands to protect pay and conditions. All the leaflets call for is for staff to join Unison and get involved in our campaign. But what campaign?

There have so far been no mass meetings organised and no calls for industrial action. These should be ABCs for trade unions seriously preparing to organise resistance against this crude offensive.

We are demanding the urgent calling of mass meetings of as many staff as possible to be organised on every site with a clear commitment made that if the bosses go ahead with their plans they will face industrial action.

Socialist Party members who work for the NHS will do everything possible to build the unity that can bring this about.

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In The Socialist 29 August 2012:


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