OpenDemocracy article on NHS pay


Dear all,

You may have seen an article on OpenDemocracy commenting on the NHS pay deal.…/nhs-staff-discover-they-wil…

I wanted to take the opportunity to make totally clear that it is deeply misleading and in parts untrue.

UNISON officers and the press team spent time yesterday (Wednesday 18) briefing the author of the blog. We are disappointed that the author chose not to use the background material and guidance that we gave her.

As you can imagine, this has generated a lot of calls to UNISONdirect and I imagine it will generate questions for you.

Claim one:
“NHS Employers, the official body in charge of NHS staff, has just published the new 2018/9 pay rates – and they do not appear to be the same as the 2018/9 pay figures staff were pointed to before they voted on the deal. In fact, averaged across all pay bands and scales, they appear to award only around half the pay rise from April 2018 that many staff may have been expecting, according to OurNHS’s calculations.”

This is not true. The figures used in the consultation are the ones that are being implemented. It would have been a fair comment to say that the employer pay charts are confusing (it’s a sentiment we share), but this claim goes further than that despite UNISON briefing the author.

As described during the consultation, in materials such as the pay calculator and the pay chart cards that we provided to activists and organisers, the exact timing of the increases depends on the anniversary date for the individual member of staff.

This is because this pay agreement is not a pay award, it is a total restructure of the pay structure. This involves moving away from the existing pay point system.

We are:
· Immediately introducing an above-living wage rate as the lowest salary in the NHS
· Increasing the value of the full rate for the job by 6.5% over three years for staff in bands 2-8c.
· Reducing the amount of time that it takes existing staff to reach that full rate for the job – we think that about 85% of existing staff will be at the top of their band by the end of the three years, from 50% currently.
· Increasing starting salaries in all bands

Additionally, we secured a clause in the framework agreement to prevent any detriment – if an unusual and unpredicted situation occurs were a member of staff would lose out, we have contractual protection for them.

Claim two
“The NHS employers jumbled up two different things in the pay calculators. One was the long-awaited (not very big) cost of living increase across the NHS. The other, usually bigger part of the pay rise people were told they would get turns out to be the normal pay increase that most NHS employees receive every year anyway, in recognition of their growing experience. This is known as their ‘increment’.

All the trade union materials clearly said “This shows the combination of pay awards, reform and incremental progression.”

Claim three
“A bigger problem arises because the dates on which they will be received are very different. While many staff thought that the whole new salary would be back-dated to the start of the financial year in April, in fact, only the relatively small cost of living increase will be. Their annual increment - usually the bigger part of the increase - will only come in on the anniversary of when they started with the NHS: which could be many months later. The result is that many staff will be earning hundreds - or even thousands - of pounds less this year than they had understood when they voted for the package.”

It is fair comment that the pay agreement is quite complex. However, annual increments are well understood in the NHS and an existing part of the system. The joint trade union pay calculator materials clearly said “This shows the combination of pay awards, reform and incremental progression,” and staff are used to the separation of 1 April pay uplifts and their main pay increase on their date of appointment. This pay agreement provides gain to staff below the top of their bands by getting them to the full rate for the job faster, and this was made really clear during the consultation.

Claim four
“The ‘increment’ is no longer automatic or definite – in future, it will depend on assessment, though there will be a transitional period (this is still under negotiation, OurNHS understands).”

This is misleading. This is not the case for existing staff in transition. This will apply in the new pay structure, and does not apply to the figures in the pay calculator, for example.

The broad rule for the future is that if you benefit from the restructure (e.g. you are a new starter and you start two pay points higher than one of your colleagues did) you will have to sit on that pay point for more than a year (whereas previously you’d have been on lower pay for two years before reaching that point).

Claim five
“Several raised concerns that these new rates – combined with forthcoming cuts to anti-social hours payments and other enhancements to basic pay – means that they might have actually been better off, overall, completely rejecting this pay deal.”

This is untrue. There are no cuts to unsocial hours earnings for any staff. There are some changes to the way unsocial hours are calculated in bands 1-3 (to prevent “leapfrogging” on nights and weekends) but no-one has any pay cut.

There is a “no detriment” clause in the agreement. If anyone can find any example of a member that is worse off in pay they should contact their union rep as soon as possible – the member of staff is contractually entitled to not suffer any detriment.

Finally, trade unions have been accused of being “a little too keen to seal a deal.”

NHS trade unions have:
· Busted through the government’s hated 1% pay cap, securing £4.2 billion additional funding for staff pay
· Won the argument with the treasury that the top rate in each band is the full rate for the job, and that all staff are entitled to it – and reduced the length of time it will take staff to reach that rate
· Increased starting salaries in the NHS, lifting starting nurse and graduate pay to nearly £25,000 by the end of the agreement
· Lifted 100,000 staff out of poverty pay and onto a rate above the real living wage
· Protects equality, by making sure people receive equal pay for work of equal value

Is that everything we wanted? No. We are still fighting for things fair apprentice pay, and the 6.5% goes no way toward making up the lost years of Tory austerity pay. But UNISON’s lead committee on NHS pay, made up of NHS staff from across the country, made a judgement that this pay agreement was a start.

This deal leaves everyone better off than they were before, and puts us in a good position to build towards fighting for a real cost of living increase for all staff for 1 April 2021.

Sara Gorton – Head of Health

Join UNISON online today Agenda for Change - the NHS staff council working in partnership Equality in UNISON, find our more