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End of automatic pay rises could lead to nurse shortage

Pay progression rewards ‘hard work’ not just ‘time served’

Jo Carlowe

Thursday, 27 June 2013

The Chancellor’s decision to end ‘progression pay’ could lead to a ‘critical shortage’ in nursing, critics have warned.

Yesterday, in the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, Chancellor George Osborne said public sector pay rises would be limited to an average of up to 1% for 2015-16 and that workers would lose their automatic right to progression pay.

"This is the practice whereby many employees not only get a pay rise every year, but also automatically move up a pay grade every single year - regardless of performance,” he said.

"Progression pay can at best be described as antiquated; at worst, it's deeply unfair to other parts of the public sector who don't get it and to the private sector who have to pay for it...we are working to remove automatic pay rises simply for time served in our schools, NHS, prisons and police."

But UNISON has condemned the move and the Royal College of Nursing is seeking clarify on what this really means.

UNISON warned that the “continued onslaught” on public sector pay would lead to critical shortages in nursing and other areas as “staff vote with their feet”.

Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON accused the Chancellor of having “no idea how pay progression works in practice,” suggesting that Mr Osborne saw pay progression as no more than just a reward for "time served".

Pay progression, he said, is “designed to reflect further training and experience gained on the job and follow development reviews with management. Increments are also a way of maintaining loyalty from experienced staff”.

Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing has pledged to seek clarity on the end to automatic pay progression.

RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary Dr Peter Carter said: “Changes which the RCN and other unions negotiated with the Government mean that NHS pay progression is already conditional on employees demonstrating they have the right skills, knowledge and performance. We will be seeking clarification that the end to automatic pay progression refers to these changes, which already took effect from April this year. These increments reward hardworking nurses and encourage the development of the workforce. It is unfair to suggest that they are based simply on time served.”

Commenting on the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, Dr Mark Porter, Chair of the British Medical Association Council said: “We will need to see further detail regarding the Government’s intentions but for many doctors pay progression is already based on satisfactory completion of their duties and other criteria. There are currently exploratory talks taking place on junior doctor and consultants contracts and they will need to consider any potential changes.”

NHS Employers says the intention is to replace progression pay with performance related pay.

Commenting on the proposals, Dean Royles, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation said: "Employers want to do everything they can to support staff and build morale but our biggest priorities must be maintaining and improving quality patient care and staff job security, both of which depend on sustainable pay bills and a focus on performance."

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