The Socialist 9 October 2004 |
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Reject Agenda for Change:
Your Questions Answered
AGENDA FOR Change (AfC) is riddled with inequalities. Socialist Party
members in the NHS believe it is a bad deal which should be thrown out. It
will certainly do nothing to provide a free, modern, publicly owned national
health service that the British public has paid for in direct taxation for the
last half a century.
AfC is this government's agenda not the union's! This is a government that
has speeded up the pace of privatisation in the health service and introduced
Is it acceptable to have some losers?
No! There will be at least 80,000 losers from the deal - this is
unacceptable. 'Pay protection' means a pay cut!
Does AfC eradicate low pay?
No! Pay bands 1 and 2 are below the Low Pay Unit's 'Decency Threshold'. It
is a reflection of the poverty wages paid in the NHS that £11,135 can be
trumpeted by UNISON as a good deal. £5.69 an hour is well below the figure
UNISON campaigns for as the minimum wage!
Has the unsocial hours issue been resolved?
No! It has been deferred not 'decoupled' or 'dead' as the union claims. Is
a government that wanted to slash these payments one year, going to come back
a year later with a proposal to increase them? Of course not.
There will still be an attack on unsocial hours payments but members facing
cuts will be left to fight alone. Our negotiators assured us that 'nothing
would be agreed until everything is agreed'. Their acceptance of the current
proposals means they have abandoned this.
Why have the government backed down now on unsocial hours?
The proposed system would have cut the wages of around 40% of health
workers. It was clear UNISON members would reject AfC.
Health workers joining civil servants, fighting the decimation of 100,000
jobs, and firefighters in action was too much for them before a general
election. They quickly settled with the firefighters and brought forward a
'compromise' on unsocial hours.
Is job evaluation fair?
No! Job evaluation schemes conducted without an accompanying increase in
budget can only provide losers as well as winners. The worst affected have
been non-clinical staff. But not all the results from the "Early Implementer"
sites, where AfC has been tested, have been included in the review.
The results from Sunderland, which caused local walkouts from staff, have
been omitted altogether! The results pointing to AfC being a raw deal have
been left out - with the union's connivance!
Then there are pay 'gateways' whereby progress depends on performance
appraisal by your manager. This is performance-related pay - a completely
arbitrary system of payment.
But aren't hours being cut?
For some - but there are increases in working hours for many to 37.5 hours
a week. We shouldn't trade the conditions of one set of members against
What about our Labour link?
UNISON's leaders are desperate to avoid a confrontation with the Labour
government. Members are sick and tired of UNISON putting the interests of the
government before our own.
AfC demonstrates that even if members withdraw from paying into the
affiliated political fund (APF), whilst the union has that link - irrespective
of how many people pay the levy - our interests are put second to those of the
It's time we broke the link. The Socialist Party campaigns for
disaffiliation from Labour and calls for the building of a new mass workers'
party that will put the interests of working people first.
Join us in our campaign
- Reject Agenda for Change.
- Campaign for a one-year pay increase 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.
- Link up with other trade unions to defend public services by
supporting/organising a 24-hour strike against cuts threatened by New Labour.
- Break the links with Labour; for a new mass workers' party.