Changes to Agenda for Change Agreement – for the Worse

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The NHS Staff Council has agreed to alter the Agenda for Change Agreement for staff in England. Following extensive consultation with branches and members in England, UNISON voted to accept the proposals, along with the 10 other unions that represent over 85% of members in the NHS, as the best way of maintaining a national agreement for health workers.

The changes mean:

• Move to locally devised performance related pay for all staff on Agenda for Change.
• Remove unsocial hour payments for staff who are off sick
• Move Bands 8c, 8d and 9 off Agenda for Change or apply discretionary points at the top of the pay spine
• Remove preceptorship (accelerated progression) for Band 5 staff

Our branch, after consultation with members, had voted that we should reject the proposals, and campaign not to reduce our national terms and conditions. We argued that we should try to make this a national campaign, involving all branches, but were told that this was not possible. The NHS is not one employer—each Trust is a separate legal body. We can only be in dispute with our employer, not with the whole NHS—so any campaign has to with our employer. 63% of UNISON members nationally voted to accept the proposals.

The unions opposing the changes, including Unite and GMB, only represent about 15% of NHS members. They say that health workers did not need to accept any changes as the employers would not have imposed them. UNISON nationally says that while this may be true, not accepting would have had serious consequences and put the whole national agreement at risk, and many Trusts would have left AfC and imposed local terms and conditions. So the choice was to accept the new proposals and the likelihood that most trusts will stick with AfC, or to reject them and prepare to fight on a Trust by Trust basis.

Our branch was willing to prepare for such a fight, but we were outvoted. It is not yet clear exactly how these proposals will be implemented, and we are awaiting further guidance.