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Health bosses urged to drop regional pay cartel plans

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 10, 2012

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Health managers in the Westcountry have been urged to abandon plans to establish a regional pay cartel as the issue comes under national scrutiny this week.

Unions say the South West Pay Consortium (SWC) is doing almost irrevocable damage to employment relations and have called on its 20 members to step back before it is too late.

The TUC will this week discuss national pay agreements at their annual conference in Brighton.

Nigel Costley, regional secretary for the South West, said what was happening in this region would be high on the agenda.

"This is definitely a national issue," he said.

"They have either picked on the South West to start because there are a bunch of chief executives here who are gung-ho for the fight or because they have calculated that workers in the South West would be an easy touch. How wrong they are."

The SWC, which includes hospitals in Truro, Plymouth and Exeter, has been established to examine way of dealing with unprecedented financial challenges.

However, unions representing workers across the health spectrum from porters to doctors, have condemned it as a means of driving down pay and conditions.

Mr Costly said the backlash was building up to be a "turning point."

He said: "Everyone is thinking that if it goes ahead in the South West, it could happen in my area. I think the SWC is a pathfinder for regional pay, which would be such bad news for us in the South West.

"We would be confined to the bottom division in the pay league in defiance of decades of policies. The damage it would do to our local economies would be huge."

The damage it had already done to employment relations was almost beyond repair, he added.

"The health business is hugely reliant on good will," he said. "But there is damage being done right now even before any action is taken.

"It is clear that employment relations and morale is being hit just by the threat of what's going on."

He called on health trusts to think again: "The sooner these trusts pull out of this cartel, the better."

Unison and the GMB have both organised demonstrations across the region protesting about the SWC.

Earlier last week, the British Medical Association and Royal College of Nursing joined the fray and refused to recognise the consortium.

The SWC released two discussion documents last month, while emphasising "absolutely no proposals have been put forward regarding any proposed changes to pay, terms and conditions."

The papers however detail a number of "staff cost reduction potential opportunities" including asking people to work extra hours for no extra pay, reducing unsocial hours allowances and reducing sick pay for new starters.

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