By Joe Lepper
In autumn 2011, chancellor George Osborne called for pay review bodies to consider market-facing local pay across the public sector, signalling the government's aim to move away from national pay, terms and conditions.
The recommendation (which, for the NHS, would mean the loss of the Agenda for Change (AfC) framework) has faced fierce opposition from health unions. They warn regional pay deals will cause frontline staff to leave, ultimately harming patient care.
Since then, the move towards regional pay has been gaining momentum: later this year, the boards of 20 NHS trusts across south west England will vote on introducing local pay and conditions for staff. These would include reduced sick leave and holiday entitlement, as well as performance-related pay.
Documents published by the South West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium, which is representing the trusts (and has been branded a 'cartel' by health unions), make clear that should staff not agree to the new terms (likely to be less favourable than those currently recommended under AfC), they could be dismissed, then re-employed under the new conditions.