In an impressive display of unity, Unite’s Health Sector National Committee has voted unanimously to reject the three-year pay offer. This afternoon’s well-attended meeting took less than two hours to reach this very clear position.
Not a single member of the Committee thought the offer was acceptable. None of us had spoken to a single member who regarded the offer as acceptable.
After discussion, we agreed that we do not need to ballot members. This is not an offer that we had any part in negotiating. This is not an offer that is acceptable to us or to Unite members. We know this – we don’t need a ballot to confirm a very clear and straightforward position. The Committee wanted to send the sharpest and clearest message we possibly could, to both the Government and the NHS Employers. We agreed that this was the best way to do it. We want to see pay negotiations with all unions re-opened, and an improved offer to put to our members.
There was enormous anger about the pay offer, and about the attempt by the Government to tie health workers to what in all probability would be three years of pay cuts. There was also real anger at the divisive behaviour of Unison and the RCN. Speakers in the debate made a point of rejecting the false claim that Unite isn’t interested in sorting out low pay – and said that the solution to low pay wasn’t to impose pay cuts for other health workers.
Of course there were different views in the meeting, and areas where sharp debate took place. Some thought we should accept the 2.75% Pay Review Body recommendation; others thought that it made no sense at all to accept a pay cut in Year 1 but reject it in Years 2 and 3. However, the PRB recommendation wasn’t on the table anyway – so we agreed to unite around our priority of rejecting the three-year offer.
There is growing concern around the role of the Pay Review Body, and this was expressed by many speakers in today’s meeting. The PRB has recommended pay awards less than inflation for the last two years. The PRB is recommending removal of Recruitment and Retention Premia for our maintenance craft members – a real and significant threat. The PRB’s remit means that it is heavily influenced by the Government and the employers. The Government effectively opted out of being bound by the PRB when it staged last year’s award; this year’s offer means that the Government, NHS Employers, Unison and the RCN have all effectively opted out of acceptance of the PRB recommendation. Existing Unite (Amicus Section) policy is for support of the Pay Review Body – but there was agreement today that we need to take these growing concerns back to our Health Sector Conference in June.
This was a good meeting. People talked about the need for Unite to show leadership, and the need to defend our members. The unanimous rejection of the three-year proposal was real, solid, and impressive.