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Agenda for Change threat

Health unions have pledged to campaign against an NHS trust which plans to pay the minimum wage to its lowest paid recruits.

Health unions have pledged to stop plans by an NHS employer in England to hire new staff on bands 1 to 4 on the minimum wage.

North Lincs and Goole NHS foundation trust is moving to impose new contracts for the lowest paid recruits who will receive lower pay than Agenda for Change rates.

Health unions have strongly criticised the decision, which will directly affect physiotherapy support workers, and argued it also constitutes the thin end of the wedge of a wider attack on NHS staff terms and conditions.

Speaking on behalf of all unions at North Lincs and Goole, Cheryl Ede, CSP steward and chair of local 'staff side', said:

'I am profoundly disappointed and angry that Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Trust have chosen to introduce a new contract for new employees on Bands 1 to 4. These staff will be paid on the minimum wage and have reduced annual leave entitlement.

Ms Ede, who has written on behalf of all staff to the trust CEO Karen Jackson, added:

'The contract is being introduced as a 'training contract' until staff have two years' experience with the NHS. It is disgusting that the trust are not only targeting the lower paid bands to attempt to cover considerable financial deficits, but are going ahead with breaking the AfC national agreement.

'This puts the terms and conditions of everyone employed under AfC at risk. These terms and conditions have been hard fought for and we must continue to resist any attempt to downgrade and devalue them.'

The staff side have registered a formal 'Failure to Agree', meaning the matter has now been raised at national level.

In a letter to the trust CEO, Christina McAnea, staff side chair of the NHS staff council put the employer on notice that all NHS trade unions had agreed to work together to campaign against the trust’s 'unilateral decision'.

Expressing 'serious concerns' over the trusts' attack on its lowest paid staff, she urged the trust to 'reconsider'.

She added:

'Whilst we appreciate the financial difficulties facing your and many other NHS trusts, we believe it is completely unacceptable to try and resolve this by cutting the pay and conditions of the lowest paid staff.

'As unions we are always willing to work with trusts to address difficulties and would be happy to meet with you to discuss this further if that would be helpful.'

In October 2014, the Trust said it was likely to see a rise in its deficit to £11 million, from £6 million back in June of last year. NL&G reportedly forecasts an 'underlying' deficit of £18 million.

Amid rising demand and an unprecedented funding squeeze, three-quarters of the country's hospital foundation trusts have reported significant financial deficits for the year 2014-15.

As part of regulatory measures agreed with Monitor, the trust must deliver a short-term cost improvement plan, but Monitor has acknowledged that the Trust cannot fix all of these financial problems on its own and needs support from the local commissioners, local authorities and patient groups.

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