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Tories plot pay attack as next step in its health service cuts

This article is over 9 years, 10 months old
Julie Sherry reveals a coalition plan to slash workers’ wages that could soften up the NHS for privatisation
Issue 2325

The government is preparing a vicious attack on NHS workers’ pay, terms and conditions, it has emerged.

If the unprecedented attack goes unchallenged every pay increment would become dependent on a worker’s “performance”. It would become much harder for workers to progress onto better pay bands. And sick pay would be cut.

The new proposals are contained in a document called the “draft heads of agreement without prejudice”. They are part of an attempt to tear up the Agenda for Change national bargaining agreement.

The news came as Mike Farrar, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, announced that NHS workers will have their pay frozen for “at least” another year. The attacks are part of a round of cuts and closures as the Tories ready the health service to be sold off piece by piece.

Gill George is a speech and language therapist who is on the Unite union’s health national industrial sector committee.

She told Socialist Worker, “It’s clear the future of the NHS is on a knife edge now. The Tories want a cheap and compliant workforce so they can drive through cuts and privatisation that will destroy the health service.”

Attempts to move towards regional pay are already taking shape. Bosses at the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust sent a letter to all its 5,542 workers last week. It tells them they will be sacked and employed on new contracts with worse sick pay.

In the south west of England bosses at 20 health trusts have formed a “pay cartel”. They are working together to drive down pay, increase working hours, slash sick pay, unsocial hours pay and holiday entitlement. They also plan to introduce performance related pay.

But this has been met with big union meetings and protests. Suzy Franklin is an NHS Unison rep working in the south west. “Nurses are hurt and angry, many will struggle to afford rent if we lose yet more pay,” she said.

“But word is spreading in the hospital and our membership is rising because of it. Dave Prentis said at Unison conference that pay, ‘will be our battle ground. It will explode’.”

Gill added, “Urgently we must rebuild confidence and organisation among health workers to fight these attacks—and this is an opportunity do it.”

Threats to civil service workers

The Tories are launching a huge assault on terms and conditions for 450,000 civil service workers, leaked documents show. The documents expose their plans to slash holidays, lengthen working weeks, cut sick pay and make a raft of other attacks on conditions.

They also show that bosses have been instructed to review expenses, disciplinary procedures and “performance management” across the civil service.

It is the latest sign that the government wants to roll out NHS-style attacks on pay, terms and conditions across the public sector.

Delegates to many union conferences this year voted to resist attacks on pay, terms and conditions. Now activists in these unions must fight to turn these words into action.

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