More Tory Attacks

Government proposals to cut unsocial hours payments are the latest attack on workers’ pay, says UNISON

UNISON has criticised plans to increase seven-day services in the NHS as unfunded and bound to fail, and as yet another attack on staff rather than a focus on the needs of patients.

In its submission on seven-day services to the independent NHS Pay Review Body (PRB), UNISON has branded the plans secretive, ambiguous, and an attempt to ignite further discontent over pay, when ministers should be focusing their attention on solving the current pay dispute.

A report by Keele University for UNISON formed part of the union’s submission to the PRB. It portrays an overworked, pressurised, understaffed and undervalued workforce which despite these pressures is extremely dedicated, hard-working and committed to patients.

UNISON head of health, Christina McAnea, said:

“This plan is about cutting staff pay, not about patients’ safety. The government’s policy on pay is clearly not working and it is ridiculous for ministers to think they can bring in major changes on the cheap.

“The government should be doing everything it can to ensure the continuity of the service, not saving money by yet again cutting staff pay.

“Staff can see straight through this cost-cutting exercise. Not only will this penalise workers, patients, and employers, it also risks worsening already strained industrial relations.

“Since their pay has been frozen and held back, many workers have been relying on unsocial hours payments simply to make ends meet. If the pay incentive is taken away, how will this encourage staff to work weekends, nightshifts and bank holidays?

“We are almost a week away from the next industrial action in the NHS.

“If this dispute is to be resolved, the Secretary of State and employers must sit down with unions to work out not just the current pay round but also a sustainable way to recruit, retain and fairly reward NHS workers in the future.

“Staff are already at breaking point. Not paying them fairly when they are working at night and over the weekends could be the final straw. Many staff have already left the NHS and others are considering it.

UNISON’s evidence also shows that pay is a major source of frustration and deep-seated grievance among health workers. It has an impact on their working lives, their ability to cope financially and promotes the continued sense of injustice around the pay squeeze.

A nurse interviewed for the report said: “ If I don’t get paid extra for doing nights I might as well do days, who is going to end up doing nights, will this be more agency nurses? We already have a large proportion of staff that are agency.”

An A & E receptionist said: “The way I look at is that night enhancement is, for me, giving up my night time, my evening times, which I could spend with friends and family, to come here.  Whereas, if we didn’t have allowances I might as well just do a 9.00 till 5.00 for the same money”.

An Ambulance Care Assistant said: – “ I think it was a bit of a kick in the teeth to a lot of staff to say our increments and our bands were pay rises… we’ve had a pay freeze, you know, going on five years… to say staff, staff that give so much aren’t worth so little… I think that was the final nail in the coffin for most staff”.

An Operating Department Practitioner said:  “They cannot recruit.  Who’d want to work here? Who wants to work Christmas Day? Who wants to work Christmas night? Who wants to work Saturday night?… So, you know what I mean, and bearing in mind most people could earn, a lot of people could probably earn the same amount of money for doing decent hours working in an office in a town”.

A senior supervisor said: “Saturday, Sunday is precious time when you’re already a full-time worker. To give up more time with your family to come to work to provide a service for people that really need it and for it to go unnoticed by just being paid a flat rate of pay would be quite selfish. I definitely wouldn’t be doing it.

Download “UNISON evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body 2015-16 on seven-day services”

Download “Keele University research paper: Under pressure and ‘the whole umbrella’s going to have to grow’