Angry health staff have taken their battle against a regional "pay cartel" to hospital bosses.
Placard-waving union leaders from Unison, Unite, the RCN and GMB lobbied the board meeting of Derriford Hospital yesterday.
The demonstration in Plymouth was part of an organised campaign in Devon and Cornwall against 20 NHS trusts in the south west – including Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust which runs Derriford – forming a group to drive down wage costs.
Union reps also laid out their opposition to board members before the meeting began. They say the consequences for the region would be disastrous, with skilled health workers driven out of the region, taking money out of the local economy.
Unions in Plymouth have collected 1,600 signatures from staff, patients and the public against the move.
The "South West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium" is looking to break away from the nationally agreed pay and conditions agreement, unions say. The consortium has been formed as a national government debate rages over whether regional pay deals should be introduced in the public sector.
Chris Musgrave, Unison South West area organiser, said: "Pay in the NHS is set nationally, and negotiations are at a critical stage. The 20 trusts are stopping those national negotiations from being able to continue."
Ann James, Derriford Hospital chief executive, told board members they could expect to receive firmer consortium proposals sometime between now and December.
She said: "We will of course be discussing the proposals with staff and their representatives and as a board we will consider them and any we may wish to progress towards the end of this year or early in 2013."