Union boss warns over NHS pay plans

Dave PrentisA union leader has warned the Government it faces the threat of industrial action over controversial moves to introduce different rates of pay for health workers across regions of the UK.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said his union would not sit back and allow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to "destroy" the national pay agreement in the NHS. The union warned that changing the pay rates of public sector workers to reflect regional differences would be an "unworkable, divisive nightmare".
Addressing Unison's health conference in Brighton, Mr Prentis said: "We will not sit back and allow Andrew Lansley to destroy our national pay agreement. If he tries to reduce the pay of our members who live in poorer areas we will make a stand.

"They've attacked our pensions and we resisted. If they come for our pay we will be ready, prepared and if we need to move to industrial action to protect everything that is right then we will do it."

Mr Prentis accused the coalition of launching a "fundamental attack" on the NHS by pressing ahead with its health reforms, saying that no-one wanted it.

"The people who work in the NHS, the people who manage the NHS, even the GPs who are expected to run it. Voters don't want it, patients don't either. So who does want this Act? The Tories, because they don't value the NHS. Why would they? They don't use it," he added.

In evidence submitted to the NHS pay review body, Unison said: "The current UK-wide pay system, which sets a floor pay rate for the NHS and allows for adjustments in high-cost areas or local areas with particular recruitment difficulties, has proven itself as a robust, effective pay system that adequately follows geographic variations in the UK labour market."

The Government is pressing ahead with plans to introduce regional pay across the public sector, sparking union warnings of massive wage cuts for employees in some parts of the country.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "It makes clear that there is a compelling case for implementing market-facing pay for all Agenda for Change staff in England, whether they fulfil a support role, work in administration or work on the front line such as nurses and other clinical staff. The principle of equal pay applies to all staff across the entire country."

Jon Skewes of the Royal College of Midwives, speaking after giving evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body, said the RCM was committed to nationally determined pay.

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