Video Part 1: Ian Bone - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGzNV13tygI
Video Part 2: Ian Bone concludes, followed by Nick Heath - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acNTC6rtv3A
As part of a general campaign within SF (www.solfed.org.uk) to combat the effects of austerity upon unemployed workers, North London Solfed has created and launched a website dedicated to ensuring claimants know their rights regarding the government's "Universal Jobmatch" scheme for those claiming JSA and other forms of unemployment benefits:
Solidarity Federation launched a new website dedicated to Universal Jobmatch. Universal Jobmatch is a new online job search service, which benefit claimants are being forced on. The service is not mandatory at the moment and we provide information how to avoid being signed up to it. The website is available in English and Polish at the moment and work on further translations is in progress.
Solidarity Federation uruchomiła nową stronę internetową poświęconą Universal Jobmatch. Universal Jobmatch to nowy internetowy serwis pośrednictwa pracy, do używania którego zmuszane są osoby pobierające świadczenia socjalne. Usługa jak na raznie nie jest obowiązkowa i na stronie informujemy jak nie dać sie do niej zapisać.Strona jest dostępna w języku polskim i angielskim, praca nad kolejnymi tłumaczeniami jest w toku.
Basic overview of the terrain that health workers defending their terms and conditions is being fought on; Fighting both their employers, as well as a supine and complicit trade union bureaucracy. Written by a Solidarity Federation/Anarchist Federation dual carder and Unison steward working in Healthcare.
UK health workers find themselves under the biggest attack on wages and terms and conditions in living memory.
The background to this are the long, slow moves to fragment the public health service into discreet trusts 1. These trusts are expected to compete on equal footing with other trusts, as well as private and third sector providers in a regulated marketplace. This has been rapidly accelerated by the passing of the recent Health and Social Care act 2012 2
Negotiations to introduce national pay and conditions were introduced in 1999 by the previous Labour administration and finally came into effect in 2004. This national pay agreement is known as ‘Agenda for Change’. It covers all members of staff excluding doctors, dentists and very senior managers. Previous to this job banding varied hugely and was based on the old Whitley Council system (introduced during in 1917 to placate growing demands for Workers’ control of industry and essentially unchanged since then). The NHS as a whole in England employs just under 1.5 million staff, making it by far the largest employer in the country.
Agenda for Change introduced an agreement where, at least in theory, job roles are all banded at a similar level irrespective of their geographical location. Pay is matched to the job rather than individual.
Within each pay band are a variable amount of spine points, at the end of each year’s service workers ascend to the next spine point. This proceeds until they have reached the top of the banding. 3 In addition to this there is the nationally negotiated annual pay award. Following an on-going commitment introduced in 2010 to freeze public sector pay, this currently stands at 0% for those earning over £21k, or a £250 flat rate rise if under. Factoring in inflation rises this is essentially a pay cut for nearly every worker in the NHS. 60% of NHS workers have yet to reach their final salary spine point, so in reality progression through these is the only thing helping keep wages stagnant, as opposed to falling, for a majority of workers.
“MARKET FACING PAY” “PAY MODERNISATION” ”REGIONAL PAY”
As part of the current government’s commitment to austerity, plans were devised for top down attempts to break national pay agreements. These have been abandoned during the autumn budget statement in favour of leaving it to the market, though there remains behind the scenes a hand on the political tiller giving succour to trusts that chose to opt out. 4 A back door for pay flexibility was via the introduction of Foundation trusts under Labour. Foundation trusts have the theoretical right to opt out of national pay and conditions, though in practice only Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust chose to do this. Up till now this remains the only trust currently outside Agenda for change. There have been attempts by individual trusts to opt out of this agreement, especially those burdened with crippling PFI debt repayments. These have been defeated at a local level, mainly due to the threat of employees gravitating towards the competing local trusts with better terms and conditions, something facilitated by the national agreement allowing employees to keep accrued salary progression. With this in mind a consortium of 20 healthcare trusts in the South West, dubbed the ‘pay cartel’, got together to collectively force through the slashing of workers’ terms and conditions. 5
In addition to this local agreements have been attacked. North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust which employs 5500 workers has instigated pay downgrading, with neighbouring trusts threatening similar action. 6
At the Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust are set to embark on a five day strike over similar plans to downgrade job roles. 7
Representatives of the approximately 20 trade unions who collectively bargain for workers within the NHS have been negotiating at length with the pay cartel. As it stands the deal on the table to “protect” Agenda for Change in England (Scotland and Wales are not affected) is:
1) Performance Related Pay to be introduced with exact implementation to be decided locally. (protected for the lowest paid worker, those in bands 1+2 and first 3 points of band 3). This is the major, major change here. Speaking to UCU members who have seen similar performance related pay in some universities, they inform me that this a form of gatekeeping that unsurprisingly this amounts to a major attack on their ability to earn this money. Unreasonable expectations or unsuitable criteria to set in place, where it can actually be logistically impossible to ever proceed up pay points.
Performance related pay is also currently being fought by teaching unions 8, so would possibly seem to represent the beginnings of a pay model for public sector workers.
2) The removal of preceptorship. This is a pay device that allows newly qualified registered nurses, midwives and allied health professionals to initially proceed at an accelerated rate through their pay points.
3) An agreement to accept strict sickness absence policies and the removal of any payments associated anti-social hour’s rate. This will inordinately affect all care giving staff, who are of course expected to provide a round the clock, 365 days a year service.
4) Staff on bands 8c, 8d and 9 to be placed on a ‘spot salary’. This translates as “pay as low as they think the market can bear”. Whilst these are management roles with the power to hire and fire and instigate structural change, they are also the pay bands responsible for deciding on pay and conditions. From a pragmatic point of view and being clear about the role of the market in this, opting them out of a national agreement is unlikely to engender a desire to fight for agenda for change if they themselves are already opted out of it.
Out of these 20 trade unions (number of healthcare workers they represent in brackets), GMB (30,000) and Unite (100,000) have the rejected the deal out of hand. Unite have explicitly said they are preparing for industrial action in the event of any opting out of Agenda for Change. Other unions have said they intend to accept them, but most including Unison (400,000) and Royal College of Nursing (380,000) are consulting their members with guidance to accept the measures. 9
These moves show that a majority of health trade bureaucracies to be utterly complicit in what amounts to a managed decline of a workers’ T&Cs. The industrial relations equivalent of, “we had to destroy the village in order to save it”. Even on their own terms Unison states that by agreeing with these proposals may still result in trusts continuing to seek to leave the national agreement.
“While there is no guarantee that agreeing to these proposals will hold 100% of trusts in England to AfC, the Health SGE believes these would hold the majority and will be consulting branches to get better information on this.” 10
However with guarantees for unions to have a consultative role in any job re-gradings, and to being involved with local performance related pay structures, the union will retain its primary representative function. When push comes to shove, this is the fundamental bottom line for unions. That is the right to represent workers, including the right to a “consultative role” even if that consultation leads to poor outcomes for their members. In fact we can see how important this role is, how it sees actions by its members as secondary to its own from in this passage, taken from the accompanying Unison consultation briefing (italics by author):
“Over the last year, a number of NHS trusts in England have tried to „break away‟ from Agenda for Change. Members in these trusts have had to organise, campaign and take industrial action to try and stop the employers reducing terms and conditions and moving to local contracts. If members reject these proposals it is likely that the number of these attacks would increase significantly, requiring more members to take action to defend their conditions.” 11
Of course Unison sells the removal of hard, fought T&Cs as a victory. If it can pass these changes it will accept them as the least worse option rather than risk the unpredictable nature of a demobilised rank and file organising initiative, that will be either sclerotic through underuse or even worse from their view point, has the potential to not be under the full control of the union. Unison made its playbook clear during the recent pensions' dispute. Even with a mandate it did not risk anything more than tokenistic one day strike action. 12
So these moves are a clear attempt to gauge exactly how much the membership will take. Any union member in a branch organised enough to arrange this consultation would be advised to reject this slow erosion of T&Cs and stress the need to lay officers and fellow workers of the need for sustained industrial action to defeat them. If your trade union branch recommends these measures then it makes clear the need for all workers, clinical or administrative, on all kinds of contracts to organise and meet and organise outside the union where necessary.
The fight continues.
- 1. http://libcom.org/library/driving-nhs-market
- 2. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2012/7/contents/enacted
- 3. http://www.nhscareers.nhs.uk/working-in-the-nhs/pay-and-benefits/agenda-for-change-pay-rates/
- 4. http://www.ome.uk.com/Document/Default.aspx?DocumentUid=43EE7D69-8575-4572-9976-B5E0B31B39C8
- 5. https://skwalker1964.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/explosive-exclusive-how-the-south-west-nhs-pay-cartel-plans-to-reward-incentivise-staff/
- 6. www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/2012/10/26/north-tees-and-hartlepool-nhs-foundation-trust-staff-in-protest-84229-32108121/
- 7. http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=30413
- 8. http://www.teachers.org.uk/node/17337
- 9. http://www.unison.org.uk/healthcare/a4c/consultation.asp
- 10. http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/UNISON_Briefing_AfC_proposals.pdf
- 11. http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/AfC_FAQs.pdf
- 12. http://libcom.org/blog/fight-our-lives-analysis-uk-pensions-disputes-31102012
The following statements are by member organisations of the International of Anarchist Federations (IFA-IAF), http://i-f-a.org
See also previous article on AF website: http://www.afed.org.uk/blog/international/332-solidarity-with-the-squatters-of-villa-amalia-reports-from-athens.html
FAI. Anarchist Federation (Italy) - 13 January 2013
SUPPORT THE STRUGGLES OF THE GREEK COMRADES (translation from Italian)
The National Congress of the FAI, reunited in Milan, expresses its solidarity with the Greek comrades who in recent days have been violently attacked by the police Hellenic. We have seen evacuation of Villa Amalias and Skaramaga, historical squat symbol of the Athenian movement and the arrest of hundreds of solidarity that had reoccupied the building of Villa Amalias.
The anarchist movement in Greece has built up, in recent years, a strong response from the bottom up for the ruthless raid conducted against the workers.
A response made with direct actions, reappropriation of physical spaces, organizing popular assemblies in neighborhoods, self-management in the workplace.
A response that refuses whatever form of delegation that imprison the will to change this system that shows every day, his limitations. A response that has been able to gather around if 'tens of thousands of people, workers, students, unemployed, Greeks and immigrants, because the fight is all the exploited, whatever their origin. An answer that scares the bosses and the state not only because it shows that there is an alternative to social atomization, alienation and exploitation but that this alternative is needed now more than ever.
It is necessary because it is now clear that the domain of state and capital do nothing but destroy any social relationship that is not mediated by money or by relations of domination. Necessary because the crisis is impoverishing the working classes and the middle classes is nothing more than yet another robbery carried out by those who manage money and power.
The Greeks comrades have been able to build a response to this crime and for this reason they are under attack by the police, who said he wanted to clear all occupations, supported in this by the paramilitary Nazi Golden Dawn. It is no coincidence that in times of crisis and popular mobilizations apparatuses of the state use the low level manpower of the fascists. So it was in Italy in the Red Biennium, so it is in Greece in 2013.
In fact, Greece is not far from the Italian peninsula. Here, too, the state is wiping out the results of a century of labor struggles and popular. Here too the state is attacking the social movements, evacuates the sites occupied, raid against the workers in struggle, shooting tear gas against students, beating up the ones who opposing to environmental devastation and to militarism. For this it is necessary to reject the nationalist vision of the crisis, the one nonsense of monetary sovereignty and national level as response at the Europe of banks, of the anthropological differences that create the crisis, referring to racist's theses and sad, a distorted vision that will ensure a greater strengthening the mechanisms of discipline and domination of the state and which is expressed in its most complete form, in the sacrifice of the subaltern classes on the altar of nationalist wars.
The struggles of anarchists in Greece are our struggles, our struggles are those of the Greek anarchists. So how are our struggles of those who, throughout the world, oppose to the exploitation classist, racist and sexist, and builds, daily, a society of free and equal.
We invite the whole movement at the maximum possible solidarity.
Federation of Anarchist Organising (in Slovenia)
Želja po svobodi je močnejša od vsakega zapora! 13 January 2013
We read the following on libcom about the Belfast Flag protests. Worth a look. Article by 'Belfast comrade' via Liverpool Solfed plus comments with link to WSM ones.
- Solidarity with the squatters of Villa Amalia! - reports from Athens
- Cardiff anarchists continue to resist the state [video link]
- Reports from Greece - Austeiry Measures and General Strikes - November 2012
- A Class Struggle Anarchist Analysis of Privilege Theory – from the Women's Caucus.
- Call for solidarity with imprisoned comrades from Belarus - IAF-IFA
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