Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/526/3945
Agenda for Change: Hospital workers' victory
The spin of the government's "Agenda for Change" scheme is that it provides equal pay for doing the same job across the NHS. The reality was that management in many hospitals saw it as an opportunity to downgrade the role of administration staff.
Andrew Walton, Unison rep, Leicestershire Partnership Trust, personal capacity
70 medical secretaries in Leicester Partnership Trust were told that, once agreed by our line manager, our job descriptions would be matched to a new banding. However, our signed job descriptions were not allowed to be put forward.
The hospital tried to impose their own version, saying that it had made a "mistake" and we should accept a lower grade. Many secretaries refused to agree with this offer, and pursued a grievance through Unison. Others accepted downgrading, under pressure from management.
The difference between the top of Band 4 and Band 3 is £3,000 a year. We are on "protected pay". This meant our pay is frozen for seven years at 2004 levels, or when, due to annual increases and pay deals, we would not lose any money by going on to the lower pay band.
Given that Unison's leadership refused to fight alongside the PCS and the CWU and had settled for a 1.9% pay rise, this was likely to take a very long time!
As both sides were unwilling to compromise, ACAS was brought in to resolve the dispute. At the hearing, management again tried to diminish our role, saying that we were largely typists. However, their own job description asked for much wider responsibilities.
The hearing found overwhelmingly in our favour and we should now get the banding we deserve. The Trust still needs to be held accountable that the promise of back pay from October 2004 will be upheld, and our jobs will be upgraded.
It is inevitable that management will attempt to attack us again. We need to build a new political voice for workers - by working with the Socialist Party for the beginnings of a mass working-class party, that could campaign not just to keep conditions as they are, but for massive investment into the NHS and other public services.
In The Socialist 26 March 2008:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party Marxist analysis