Pay: We can’t rely on chocolate teapots

I was sent this story by a colleague from the T&G side of Unite, balloting alongside Amicus members for industrial action. His email described the re-opener clause as “about as much use as a chocolate teapot”.

Unsurprisingly, the NHS Employers have urged the NHS pay review body to stick with the three-year pay settlement. NHS Employers director of pay, pensions and employment relations Gill Bellord said: “Employers have told us that they support the three-year deal for Agenda for Change staff and do not think there is sufficient evidence to justify a review of the provisions agreed with unions”. Recruitment and retention – the primary consideration for the Pay Review Body – are described as “stable”. The HSJ story is here, and the detail is on the NHS Employers website.

All NHS unions – having woken up to the problems inherent in a three year below-inflation deal – want to see the re-opener clause exercised.

As written, the re-opener clause is dependent on the goodwill firstly of the Pay Review Body, and secondly the Secretary of State for Health. There is nothing in the written agreement that can make either of them suddenly start being nice to us.

Most trade unionists know that we get what we fight for. Unite was absolutely right to reject the derisory three year deal, and is right to be balloting our members on industrial action now.

A ‘Yes’ vote from Unite will send a powerful message to the Government that they have a fight on their hands when it comes to NHS pay. A ‘Yes’ vote makes it more likely that the Government will suddenly discover its re-opener clause – and opens up opportunities for united action across our unions if the Government plays hardball.

We can’t afford to sit back and cross our fingers and hope things will come right. Every Unite member in our Health Sector needs to vote ‘Yes’. Every rep and activist needs to work hard to deliver a ‘Yes’ vote.

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