So what is happening? Why are we celebrating these victories when nursing pay hasn’t changed?
The important thing is the process. Getting to the point of having extra money in your pocket isn’t something that can happen overnight. The cap had to go. It was this that was artificially skewing the Pay Review Body’s submission to the government each year. Now that the cap has gone the PRB are freed up to make an above 1% recommendation to the government. But how do you even get to that point and why does it take so long?
NHS staff council is body that leads all negotiations with the Department of Health and Employers about NHS terms and conditions. All recognised trade unions are part of the staff side of that body and work collectively. Each union has a number of seats depending on size. The council meets four times a year and the executive meets much more regularly in between to take work forward with the employer representatives. There are other subgroups on specific areas and on occasion task and finish groups.
Over the 10 years since AfC was implemented there have been a number of negotiated changes to it such as changes to incremental progression and employers have raised at times a desire to change several other conditions including the way unsocial hours are paid; this is nothing new. The Trade Unions have successfully defended these and other “attacks” as they are clearly detrimental to our members. However there are also things that we and the TUs would wish to change, so discussions about changes to AfC terms and conditions are and have been on and off many times over the last 10 years. These discussions are separate to the annual pay rise process which staff council is involved in but happens on a yearly cycle.
The annual pay award for the NHS is not negotiated, the increase is recommended by an independent pay review body (PRB) to the government each year. The PRB gathers evidence from NHS employers, joint trade unions and government and makes a recommendation. The timescale is usually an autumn start with February to early spring announcement of the award. The pay year in the NHS is April to March.
The government hasn’t always accepted the recommendation of the PRB but usually does. Funding for the NHS is identified as part of the government’s budget cycle and funding for NHS pay is not usually identified separately to the NHS envelope.
We can all see the potential strings around modernisation of AfC and productivity. The conversations about AfC are bound to include again talks on unsocial hours but the talks are not one sided. The TU negotiators are not going to agree to changes that wipe out pay rises for the majority and in truth there are things in AfC that need looking at 10 yrs on. Suggesting increased productivity is outrageous. We are working extremely hard behind the scenes to ensure you get an award you deserve. But this cannot and will not happen overnight.
Nurses in every sector are working hard, doing extra and in many cases are worn out. We need to keep the pressure on MPs and continue to get more members on board. As members you need to believe you have a voice and only by more members coming together and more people willing to become active will we be in a position to consider action if the award next year falls short.