HEALTH WORKER, the rank and file paper for workers in the NHS, held a packed fringe meeting at Unison conference attended by over 100 people.
The meeting was dominated by a discussion of Agenda for Change—New Labour’s flagship scheme that will place every health worker in the country on new terms and conditions.
The scheme, centrally important to the government’s “modernisation” strategy, is under great strain.
It is being piloted at 13 “early implementer” sites around Britain.
The meeting was led off by Ray McDermott, the Unison branch secretary from the ambulance service in north east England, one of the early implementers.
Last year Ray McDermott was a key person who helped to win the debate to press ahead with the pilot schemes.
Today Ray says, “I wish I’d lost that vote!”
People raised their concerns about the lack of information coming from the union about the early implementer sites. One activist argued that “this meeting is so big it should have been called by the health section of Unison”.
The meeting reflected a huge level of scepticism about Agenda for Change, which has deepened since Unison health conference in April.
People are concerned about the number of staff who are losing out—up to a quarter in some early implementers.
There will be a special Unison health conference in the first week of October. Unless changes are made to Agenda for Change, activists will argue that this conference should recommend a no vote in the ballot of all health workers over the scheme.
Following the hugely successful fringe meeting activists are also planning a Health Worker conference.
The ferment over Agenda for Change comes as another central “modernisation” project—the government’s scheme which aims to offload many teachers’ responsibilities onto poorly paid teaching assistants—is also in trouble.
Unison’s local government conference voted to suspend its involvement in the schools “remodelling” programme.
Special Health Worker Conference—Agenda for Change: is this the deal we want? Saturday 31 July, 1.15pm to 5pm, Carrs Lane Church Centre, Birmingham. Registration £6, plus pooled fair system. Send registrations to C Bedale, 123 Coppice Street, Oldham OL8 4BH.