BALLOT PAPERS have gone out to Unison union members in the NHS for the vote to decide whether to accept Agenda for Change—the government’s plan for sweeping changes to health workers’ terms and conditions.
Yunus Bakhsh is a health service group executive member for Unison, which represents 450,000 health workers. He urges health workers to vote no.
FAR TOO many people will lose out if this deal goes ahead. Most will be admin and clerical workers—but other groups stand to lose out, or at best see their pay stand still.
That’s indicated by the huge no vote by the Society of Radiographers, who rejected the deal with an 83 percent vote against.
The exact number who will lose out is not even known.
The early implementer sites, where Agenda for Change has been tested, give only a partial result.
But if, as has been suggested by the union, 8 to 10 percent of our members lose out then we cannot accept this deal.
Though unsociable hours payments have been removed from the deal, they are set to be renegotiated in 2005.
We should demand guarantees that we will not lose out over these payments.
Otherwise thousands of NHS workers who are dependent on them could be living on borrowed time.
The issue of funding for Agenda for Change is another problem. We’re yet to see any indication from the government that the level of funding needed to pay for this deal, and to continue existing unsociable hours payments, will be met.
Some sections of the union’s leadership are saying that local health trusts would, of course, say there’s no money for the deal.
That’s true, but we’ve not been negotiating with local health trusts—we’ve been negotiating with the government.
And the government has made it clear that the deal will be funded out of the existing “financial envelope”.
They will not be making additional money available.
We should reject this deal, and demand the union goes back and wins proper funding for a decent pay rise for all NHS staff.
There are plenty of people in my workplace who are not convinced that this is a good deal.
The degree of scepticism in the union was reflected at the recent Unison health special conference, where about 40 percent of delegates voted to recommend a no vote.
The union will send out large amounts of official information urging people to vote yes.
In response, activists should organise meetings in workplaces to discuss the implications, and go for the biggest possible no vote with the biggest possible turnout.
The voting in the ballot closes on 5 November.