Union warning NHS staff over pay cut fears

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TENS of thousands of NHS staff in South Yorkshire could face pay cuts under Government plans to introduce regional agreements for wages and conditions, one of the major health unions fears.

Unison, which represents almost 6,000 staff in Sheffield hospitals, surgeries and health centres, has raised concerns about changes proposed by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

Mr Lansley says having higher rates of public sector pay in ‘economically-depressed areas’ has a negative effect on the private sector, because it reduces its ability to compete for the best staff.

But Unison believes the outcome would be that NHS staff in comparatively wealthy areas would be more highly paid than their counterparts in poorer areas, hitting ‘thousands of staff’.

Pam Johnson, regional head of health for Unison, said: “We believe staff on the lower grades would be worst affected by these proposals which would be divisive between staff working in different areas.”

Ms Johnson said no details have yet been revealed of how the Government proposes to make the change, but said she believes new staff could be first in line and it could be extended to all staff through having contracts changed.

She said: “We are talking to our members, who range from nurses and technicians to cleaners and porters, to make them aware of what is happening.

“It is undermining the morale of health workers at a time when the service is going though enough changes and they should be receiving support.”

Proposals to regionalise NHS pay agreements follow a similar idea for teachers.

Unison fears that difference in wages between areas could mean better staff avoiding lower-paid NHS trusts, hitting the quality of services.

The union is waiting to see full details of the Government’s proposals before deciding what action it should take.

In a submission to the NHS pay review body, Mr Lansley called for a minimum national basic pay rate for NHS staff, with supplements in particular regions.

Mr Lansley said: “Current rates of pay in the NHS do vary geographically, but significantly less so than the pay of comparable staff in the private sector.”