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.
The object of A4C was to make pay fair throughout the NHS so that workers would be paid according to the demands of their work and their experience. It shouldn’t be influenced by where you work or whether you are in favour with the management or not.
When Southern Health sent out a communication about their proposals they arranged meetings at short notice and many staff could not attend. UNISON in the North organised our own meetings with a view to ask you to back the Stewards in fighting against the pay loss. You gave us that backing.
The next stage was to spread this far and wide to let the public and other Trade Unionist around the country know what was going on. We set up a public meeting in Oxford with over 100 people in attendance. We had speakers from Oxfordshire County Council and Yorkshire, where they are taking industrial action to defend pay. Our Stewards attended the National UNISON Health Conference, and got support from lots of UNISON Branches Nationwide. We printed 8,000 post cards addressed to the Chair of the Trust Board, and asked people to send them in, which people have done in their thousands.
We attended a Lobby of the Trust Board organised by UNISON in Southampton and was shown on BBC South news. We are standing up against the cuts.
We are also spreading the word about what is happening through Union publications, letters, e-mails and by phone. That is why it is so important for you send us your e-mail and phone details and ask others to so as well. There is also a campaign meeting every Thursday at 5:30pm at East Oxford Health Centre, Manzil Way, OXFORD. This is to link in with the local community.
All staff were sent letters offering the proposed changes to terms and conditions. A lot of staff found them threatening as they said that if staff did not sign by June 7th they would be dismissed. It did say that they would be offered a meeting regarding being re engaged, but it said that staff would then lose their pay protection. There were some errors in the first letter and the Trust sent out another letter which was on yellow paper and extended the deadline to June 14th.
Unison advised staff not to sign the letters while negotiations were still going on. The Trust has now withdrawn the deadline and made another offer. They are now offering to give us 18 months pay protection for enhancements and to let us keep are current amount of Annual Leave for 2 years. This is better than their previous offer but it is not as good as their original offer when they said that we would get 2 years protection. It also means that after 2 years we will be back to square one and having to try and survive with a much lower income.
The Unison Steward Team feels that it is important to give a recommendation to reject this offer as it will still mean moving away from Agenda For Change. We feel that there needs to be a call for either County Councils or the Department of Health to fund Social Care properly, nationally, and not send us out to the lowest bidder whose main aim is to cut costs by cutting wages and conditions. The cuts would affect staff morale and could lead to an exodus of skilled staff from Social Care as they will not be able to afford to work for such low wages.
Funding from Social Care need not necessarily come from other parts of County Council budgets. It could be funded from the thirty billion pounds of unpaid corporation tax.
If we reject this offer Southern Health will have to rethink what to do. They have a number of options. One of the options is that they may choose to leave the Social Care Sector. However if this did happen we would be passed to another provider with Agenda For Change terms and conditions still intact. This would mean that any group or organisation taking us over would have to go through the whole TUPE process again. This is the other reason why we need to fight, so other organisations will think twice before making any cuts to our terms and conditions.
As part of the campaign we will be lobbying the County Council on Thursday 13th June at 10.00am, we will also be asking to make representations at the meeting itself and calling for Social Care to be funded by Central Government, We hope you can come. There will be further Union meetings coming up. Please look out for them and attend them where possible.
The Steward team would like to express their thanks and gratitude to all of our members and supporters who have supported our campaign to keep Agenda For Change Terms and Conditions. We know how hard and frustrating is for you as we are going through the same process. Please remember how important this fight is and whatever part you play in keeping Agenda For Change your contribution has been of immense value. As a collective your voice has been heard.
Now action must be taken.