We are writing to you as your Steward Team to give you an update concerning the dispute with Southern Health. We also want to explain our reasons for recommending that you reject the latest offer from Southern Health.

As you may already know we have been in Dispute meetings with the Trust over changes to Terms and Conditions. Our terms and conditions come from Agenda for Change (A4C) which was a national agreement made several years ago with the government.  

Following the campaign to reject the cuts and a series of negotiation meetings Southern health Trust has reconsidered their original plan and has said it is now prepared to make concessions.

The Southern Health financial report for 2011/2012 shows that the funds given to Southern Health directors increased by £420,000, rising from £642,595 to £1,063,539, with an additional £34,000 on top for pension contributions.
Part of the increase was to accommodate an extra director, yet there were real increases in wages for the top bods. The highest paid received a rise of £8556 including pension contribution, their total wages and contributions rising to £188,335.

Big pay cuts, loss of leave and the 'race to the bottom' dominated yesterdays public meeting organised by UNISON stewards who provide support to clients with learning disabilities.

Close to 100 people attended - about half of whom were employees of the old Oxfordshire Learning Disability Trust - now taken over by Southern Health Foundation Trust and rebranded TQ21.

The meeting dealt squarely with the proposals coming from the new employers - swinging cuts in wages up to £400 a month, a reduction in annual leave to just above the legal minimum and a 'pay for your own training' approach to quality. In a reckless disregard for patients, the trust originally proposed to impose the new contract on workers attending work on the 1st July - now they are attempting to force staff to sign up to new low pay and conditions contracts in advance by threatening the loss of limited pay protection if staff fail to agree.  

The advice from the union to members is clear - don't sign any new contract until this issue is resolved. The union is starting a consultative ballot among members, our stewards team is urging members to tick the section calling for strike action. If members support strike / industrial action a full legal ballot will take place which would give members the right and protection to take action - should there be a majority vote for this.

UNISON will be organising a series of lobbies of key groups, such as councillors, MPs, health commissioners to bring pressure to bear on Southern Health to provide quality care by paying staff a living wage.  Campaign resources will be available at the meeting.

UNISON will also be writing to affected members in the next week to consult them on what action they might be prepared to take to stop the cuts in pay and annual leave in the event that Southern Health does not respond to reasoned argument and pressure.  It is important that as many people respond as possible.

Southern Health stewards are recommending that affected members indicate that they are prepared to take strike action as we believe we need to be no less determined to defend our terms and conditions if Southern Health remains determined to force the cuts through.

The attack by Southern Health Foundation Trust on the pay and conditions of frontline band 2 and band 3 workers has implications for all NHS staff.

If Southern Health Foundation Trust can cut up to £400 a month and reduce annual leave entitlements to just above the legal minimum this could set a precedent for other Foundation Trusts to do the same in a race to the bottom as service providers undercut each other to grab contracts.

UNISON is not accepting this attack on our members in Southern Health and wants to see branch members in Southern Health and other Oxfordshire NHS Trusts back a campaign to stop these attacks.