By Bill Heaney
NHS Scotland Agenda for Change staff will receive a hugely disappointing interim pay increase which will be backdated to 1 December 2020, ahead of full pay negotiations being concluded in the coming months.
In recognition of an exceptional year of significant pressure – and politicians shouting from the rooftops about how wonderful they and how many lives they saved – staff will receive an interim pay increase of 1% which will be backdated to 1 December ahead of the final 2021-22 pay settlement. This follows the £500 thank you payment announced earlier.
While pay increases are usually effective from 1 April both the 1% interim rise and the full pay settlement, once agreed, will be backdated to 1 December 2020 benefiting 154,000 Agenda for Change employees including all NHS nurses, paramedics, healthcare support staff and allied health professionals.
The date makes it look like the SNP government have been lying through their teeth about awarding staff for their heroic work and are in the process of taking them for fools.
A bland media release says that formal negotiations over staff pay have been affected by the cancellation of the UK Government’s budget and subsequent impact on the Scottish Spending Review.
It adds: “This uncertainty has significantly impacted on the ability to progress and conclude pay negotiations as we continue to respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and deliver a nationwide vaccination programme, meaning the conclusion of pay negotiations for staff have been delayed.”
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman, pictured right, said: “The NHS is founded on the hard work, professionalism and dedication of our staff and I and millions across Scotland are hugely and constantly impressed by, and grateful for, their skill and commitment, particularly given the added and sustained pressure placed on the service by COVID-19.”
Not impressed enough however to award them a significant pay rise.
She added: “I have been clear that I am committed to securing a pay settlement that is fair, affordable, and sustainable. However, I am conscious that now there will inevitably be a wait for the 2021-22 Agenda for Change pay negotiations to conclude. So in advance of the formal pay settlement, we will implement an interim 1% ‘payment on account’ from 1 December 2020, which will then be built upon by the full settlement when the negotiations conclude. This payment on account will start to be seen in March salaries, ensuring that Agenda for Change staff benefit from an increase in pay earlier than would usually be the case.
“We want to agree the full pay settlement negotiations as quickly as is practicable. This interim step, alongside the one-off £500 bonus [which for many frontline workers failed to materialise] , should make clear that we want to support our staff regardless of the impact of the UK Government’s delay to the budget. Both this interim increase and the full settlement will, once agreed, then be topped up in due course as necessary to ensure the final settlement is fully backdated to December 2020.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her Cabinet are attempting to divert the blame for the pay delay on the Westminster government.
Their spokesperson said: “The cancelling of the UK budget and replacement with a spending review published shortly before Christmas has pushed back the Scottish Spending Review and delayed the government’s ability to identify the financial envelope from which we can negotiate. Therefore it is clear that pay negotiations for Agenda for Change staff will now be delayed until the summer.”
Agenda for Change is the NHS pay system for all staff directly employed by NHS Health Boards with the exception of some very senior managers and staff within the remit of the Doctors’ and Dentists’ Review Body.
Across the UK, the system applies to over one million NHS staff and in NHS Scotland approximately 154,000 NHS Staff are on these terms and conditions of service.
The 2021-22 Agenda for Change pay settlement will be effective from 1 December 2020, instead of 1 April 2021, as would normally be the case. This will mean more money for staff once the settlement is agreed.
Staff will receive the 1% increase in their March salaries, ensuring they benefit from an increase in pay earlier than would usually be the case.
In line with the Scottish Public Sector Pay Policy, the 1% will be capped at £80,000, with staff who currently earn more than this getting a flat payment of £800 on account.
NHS staff hard at work at the height of the coronavirus crisis and (above) Vale of Leven Hospital.