As Unison members and NHS workers demonstrate outside Barnstaple hospital, they warn a move to look at staff pay and conditions will lead to a ‘second rate service’.

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UNION members demonstrating outside Barnstaple hospital have called on health trust bosses to withdraw from a consortium looking at staff pay and conditions.

They claim the result of discussions by the South West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium could see NHS workers in the region losing up to 15 per cent of their income through cuts to pay, annual leave, sick pay and increased hours.

On Wednesday Unison organised the lobbying demo at North Devon District Hospital to coincide with the monthly board meeting of Northern Devon Healthcare Trust.

The trust is one of 20 in the South West to spend £10,000 and join the consortium, which unions have labelled a ‘pay cartel’ and say is engaged in ‘gunboat diplomacy’.

The consortium has released two discussion documents outlining the financial problems facing the NHS and looking at 28 suggestions on ways money might be saved through changes to staff terms and conditions.

Mark Harper, North Devon Unison branch secretary, told the Gazette it was just one more thing which had ‘broken the backs’ of NHS staff.

“The pay cartel was formed behind the backs of staff and there’s a loss of trust there,” he said.

“I believe it is a way of bringing in regional pay and will lead to worse pay and conditions for the South West than the rest of the country, which will make it more difficult to attract staff.

“It comes on the back of a two year pay freeze and we have already had experience of cuts. Morale among staff is very low as we are just reeling from one blow to the next and we will fight this using every method at Unison’s disposal.”

Trudie Brailey, an assistant practitioner from Honiton and a member of Staff Side, a joint trade union committee, said it could results in patients and public seeing a second rate service.

“It will isolate the South West – we are already struggling to recruit staff and who would want to come and work here if they were on different terms and conditions?” she asked.

“I cannot fathom why you would want to restrict the people you employ. We know there is already difficulty in recruiting registered nurses, it is absolutely dire.”

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