Unsocial hours ballot

 The ballot on Agenda for Change ‘unsocial hours’ payments is now underway. Bizarrely, the additional payments apply only to staff who work after 8 pm or before 6am. Since when has it been ‘social’ to work until 8 pm, or to start work at six in the morning?

I wasn’t at the Unite Health Sector National Committee meeting that made a recommendation on the offer, as it clashed with a National Executive meeting. If I had been there, I would have argued strongly for a ‘No’ vote.

I don’t work unsocial hours, but that’s not the issue. I will be voting ‘No’ myself for the same reason as I voted against the initial Agenda for Change deal – because some of our members are going to lose out. Remember the old union slogan of ‘An injury to one is an injury to all’? It’s a fundamental principle. Unions are only strong when we stick together and defend one another. It’s not good enough to back a deal when we know some people will lose out.

Some of our members will lose money straight away. The big Unite losers in a few months time are set to be our members in pathology. The ‘get out’ for now is that all payments to pathology staff – on call or unsocial hours – will be treated as on call and protected until October this year. The challenge then is that, after accepting a poor national deal with AFC and an unsatisfactory national deal for unsocial hours, the chances of getting a decent outcome over on call are slim. Many of our members are expecting to lose thousands of pounds a year.

This is ‘chickens coming home to roost’ time. We were told with AFC, ‘Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’ – but that was dropped when it became clear the whole package could be voted down on the basis of rotten unsocial hours and on call proposals. We allowed the Government to get away with divide and rule tactics, playing off one group of health workers against another. Our members will pay for the price for this going forward.

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