NIPSA HSC Pay Update: Agenda for Change (Refresh) Framework Agreement – Inclusive of Payscale Restructuring for HSC Northern Ireland

This posting is to bring members up to date regarding NIPSA’s position on the “Agenda for Change (Refresh) Framework Agreement,” which has been used by the Conservative Government to drive through a 3 year pay deal for the NHS staff in England.

This process has caused much misinformation and speculation across the Health and Social Care (HSC) system in Northern Ireland since it was announced in England a number of months ago.

More recently NIPSA members will have seen press coverage of NHS staff in England claiming that they have been “duped” by this particular deal.

This posting aims to do 3 things:

  • Firstly, provide accurate, factual information on the current state of play in relation to pay for NIPSA members in the HSC sector in Northern Ireland.
  • Secondly, to outline why NIPSA has come to the conclusion that the NHS England Agreement is, in our view, not fit for purpose.
  • Thirdly, to put NIPSA’s position on Pay and Agenda for Change related issues on the record.
Current Position

It is acknowledged that there is a framework document and a set of proposals for England which are to be discussed in a Northern Ireland context.

However, please note and understand that at present:

  • There is no pay deal on the table;
  • There is no pay claim on the table;
  • There is no pay offer on the table;
  • There is no proposal with the HSC unions to discuss an AFC framework for Northern Ireland for 2018 and subsequent years.

In the absence of a NI Assembly there is no political body in Northern Ireland to set a negotiating framework for officials in the Department of Health (DoH) to begin negotiations with Health Service Employers and Trade Unions, or to give political sign off to any Pay/AFC package that might emerge from such negotiations.

In the absence of Ministers and an Executive Pay Policy for 2018/1, the DoH are unable to enter into formal negotiations. However, they have recently started an engagement process which will allow for Employers and Trade Unions to gain a detailed understanding of their respective positions on all the issues; provide for exchanges of information; and keep an ongoing line of communication open as we move forward.

HSC Trade Unions have identified specific data necessary to inform this process and have written to the DoH confirming this detail.

Key and recent developments that need to inform and influence such discussions must include:

  • The England Framework Agreement on the proposed reform of NHS pay structure for Agenda For Change staff;
  • Proposals for reform of Agenda for Change (AFC) in NHS Scotland;
  • HM Treasury announcement supporting framework agreement with substantial additional investment for the next 3 years, which would see associated consequentials flowing to Northern Ireland in the Autumn Budget according to the Barnett Formula; and
  • Any other pay bids made by the DoH in the current year.

It is an objective of NIPSA that a pay remit is submitted and approved that will result in an outcome whereby staff in the HSC Northern Ireland are on comparable AFC payscales to their NHS counterparts in the other three countries.

Current Analysis

NIPSA is of the view that the English model is not fit for purpose and the concern is that the DoH would try and implement the English model with the least amount of cost, hardship or heartache for both the Department and HSC Employers.

Seducing the low paid, with offers of so called pay rises, supposedly worth over 27% over 3 years, which Employers would have to pay any way to meet their living wages obligations, whilst simultaneously reducing unsocial hours premiums and sick leave entitlements is in our view both dishonest and wrong.

NIPSA, also fundamentally opposes the abolition of the right to any annual pay rise that is not “performance related” which is in the NHS England deal.

NIPSA, and the other HSC Trade Unions will therefore argue for the restoration of payscales and pay parity to reflect developments in the other 3 countries but, in particular, Scotland.

Political paralysis and some fundamental flaws with the NHS England deal only add to the current workforce pressures facing the HSC in Northern Ireland.

Poor pay means the HSC (NI) is already haemorrhaging expensively trained staff, across the water, across the border and out of the service all together, at an unstainable level.

NIPSA Policy and the Way Forward

NIPSA believes we have no option but to adopt the following policy position until an offer can be developed through negotiation, which would be fit to be consulted on with our members.

  • Firstly, a political mandate must be secured to establish a negotiating framework involving the HSC Trade Unions and Employers. Without this there is no way to begin considering either pay or what/if/how an AFC Refresh might look like.
  • Secondly, without prejudice to this process, the DOH should acknowledge that low pay lies at the root of the recruitment and retention crisis and commit to the restoration of the national NHS AFC payscales immediately, to help address this crisis.
  • Thirdly, in recognition of the impact of the delays the political situation in Northern Ireland is causing, HSC employers should make a 2018 pay award that equals at least the 3% paid in Scotland, with additional monies being released to fully meet all living wage obligations to those in pay bands 1 to 3 in line with Year 1 in the NHS England deal.
  • Fourthly, while we welcome the additional monies that is currently available in terms of the Barnett consequentials, NIPSA Branches must oppose the current English Framework in its current form. We also believe that the DOH are not ready or are in a positon to negotiate a framework in Northern Ireland, therefore staff in Northern Ireland should not be disadvantaged and we reiterate the need for an in year pay rise
What Does All This Mean for Me?

NIPSA is not prepared to see the pay of our members being held hostage either by the political paralysis affecting the devolved structures, the organisational paralysis of HSC Employers, or the desire of a Conservative Government to further erode our terms and conditions.

We will keep NIPSA members across the HSC fully up to speed as any developments occur and consult with our members on the Union’s position at the first opportunity. Fuller versions of the information referred to above together with copies of all correspondence can be downloaded from the links below.  

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