Here at University Hospital’s Plymouth 2023 for our UNISON members has had its ups and downs. At the beginning of the year the 2023-2024 NHS pay rise dispute concluded with the NHS England wage increase of 5.4% for most employees and 10.4% for those at band 1 and 2 entry points. Whilst the pay increase was welcomed with most opting out of the strike mandate, it has still not gone unnoticed by members that if we consider the national inflation rate of 4.6% for 2022-2023 the pay rise in real terms only actually amounted to 0.8%! Adding insult to injury, other public service sectors had much better pay rises for example, Police service: 7% pay rise, Fire brigade: 7% backdated to July 2022 plus additional 5% from July 2023, Teachers: 6.5%, a 12% pay rise in 2 years and Scotland NHS: at least a 6.5% pay rise.
With a yearlong occupancy level in acute hospital settings being on average more than 95%, high levels of service demand in all departments have become the norm. Therefore, it hardly seems fair that we received one of the lowest pay rises in the public sector. Many UNISON members feel this way and are not optimistic for what the government will believe to be a fair pay rise for 2024-2025. With all the RCN and BMA strikes we have had over the last year, I can’t help but remain hopeful that when it comes to it, locally UNISON members at UHP may feel that enough is enough, come together and this year reach the mandate for strike action.
Running alongside this theme is the UNISON campaign for re-banding of our band 2 HCAs here at UHP. Nationally UNISON has been successful in getting NHS Trusts to pay HCAs fairly. In 2021 Unison wrote to UHP asking them to look at Healthcare assistants’ job descriptions to make sure they match with the agenda for change profile. The roles went to job matching and over 700 band 2 roles in the trust came back as working at a band 3 level. Despite this, nearly 3 years on, the Trust has still not up banded the people in these roles. They have now agreed to up band, but the Unions and the trust remain in dispute over the backpay agreement. Quite simply the Trust’s board of executive directors are refusing to provide backpay for these years, only agreeing to backpay a measly 5 months! Many trusts around the nation have agreed up to a 5 year back payment and we feel it a reasonable request that UHP pays the same to its HCAs.
This year UNISON welcomes the year of the LGBT+ workers. Here at UHP it would be amazing if we could recruit more stewards representing LQBT+ to help drive change in our workplace culture. LGBT+ reps will be best placed to campaign at a local level on the issues surrounding LQBT+ people to ensure UHP staff culture becomes more inclusive of all identities, regardless of how people define themselves. If you would like to become involved in raised awareness, all ideas are welcome, please contact the branch 01752 692260 and a UHP steward will be in touch.
UNISON believes that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect at work. Therefore, alongside the recognition of our LGBT+ workers I must also raise awareness of the increasing number of cases of racial discrimination our reps here at UHP are seeing. The trusts’ reaction to this will be the implementation of the Just and Learning culture. However, this has been talked about for some time with little progress on seeing it come to light. The “speaking up” policy has brought about the implementation of the Freedom to speak up guardians who are a great asset to the Trust. They may be a contributing factor to so many more people coming forward and raising their concerns around these behaviours however, workplace bullying can remain a hidden problem and may continue to be accepted or encouraged by the ‘culture’ of the organisation. That is why it is important to speak up against it. Alongside the freedom to speak up guardians your UNISON stewards are trained to help you find a solution to bullying, harassment and discrimination issues so please don’t be afraid to get in touch with us. You are entitled to work in a safe environment free from this behaviour and to be part of a culture in which all have equal opportunities to thrive.