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Trust bypasses unions with cost-cutting proposals

Union leaders have criticised the NLaG (Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust) for emailing proposed cost-cutting measures to all staff in an attempt to bypass national terms and conditions.

The BMA, the Royal College of Nursing, UNISON and Unite said consulting directly with staff could undermine the negotiation process, and requested the trust to allow the unions to respond first.

However, NLaG director of organisational development and workforce Neil Pease claimed proposals had been leaked to staff, forcing the trust to release the paper formally earlier than planned.

NLaG local negotiating committee chair John Harvey said: ‘As chair of the LNC, I was disappointed that the trust management chose to disseminate and discuss this item directly with all staff, rather than by appropriate mechanisms with the local trade union committees.’

NLaG is following in the footsteps of the South West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium, a group of 20 NHS trusts attempting to move away from national pay, terms and conditions.

Cutting corners

The NLaG proposals, projected to save £2.7m per year, include cuts to overtime pay rates, sick pay, pay protection and travel expenses. Staff would fund their own Criminal Record Bureau checks and, where relevant, work permits. A review of supporting professional activity time for medical staff has also been proposed.

BMA senior industrial relations officer Kevin McFadden said: ‘All of the NHS trade unions nationally have a strong line on this, as we’ve seen with the South West Consortium, and we want to make sure national terms and conditions prevail. We don’t want to negotiate anything locally that undermines national agreements.’

Mr Pease blamed the so-called Nicholson challenge of saving £20bn by 2015 for the NLaG proposals.

He said: ‘The NHS is facing one of the most ambitious cost improvement programmes of its history. With the pay bill accounting for two-thirds of expenditure it is something that many organisations are considering revisiting nationally.’

He denied there were targets to reduce wage bills, and said the trust wished to ask staff for their views on a range of proposals.

BMA council chair Mark Porter said: ‘Moving towards regional pay in the NHS would make it difficult for some hospitals to recruit and retain high-calibre staff. It would move us away from a truly national health service.’