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Friday, 12 April 2013

Nurses’ fury at plans to change their contracts

Written by The Yorkshire Post
NURSES’ leaders have heavily criticised proposals to make more than 700 health and social care workers redundant and re-employ them on new contracts with “worse terms and conditions”.

Care Plus Group, which provides adult health and social care services in North East Lincolnshire, has given local trade unions advance notice of 708 redundancies, the Royal College of Nursing said, as part of plans to save £900,000 in 2013/14.

According to the college, the proposals include cuts to overtime rates, on-call payments and unsocial hours’ payments, changing travel and mileage rates, reducing sick pay and sickness absence payments, and cutting maternity leave. Staff were formally consulted on the proposals to change their terms and conditions earlier this year and rejected them by nearly 2 to 1.

The college said it was now taking legal advice while urging members not to sign new contracts.

Glenn Turp, regional director for the Royal College of Nursing in Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “Our members are angry and very upset that the Care Plus Group has decided to tear up their terms and conditions of employment.

“This tactic is deliberately confrontational and designed to frighten and bully staff into agreeing changes that will see them lose pay and important benefits.

“This underhand approach could completely back fire. The Care Plus Group runs the serious risk of losing highly experienced and skilled nursing staff and finding itself unable to deliver safe, high quality patient care.”

He added: “There is already a recruitment and retention problem facing district nursing, with many district nurses due to retire over the next few years. With this sort of treatment, many could decide that they’ve simply had enough and not sign a new contract or look elsewhere for a job with the NHS.”

Care Plus Group, a social enterprise which has run adult health and social care services across North East Lincolnshire since 2011, said it needs to make changes to safeguard its future and has already saved £1.5m.

But Mr Turp blamed the cuts on “elementary mistakes” and “financial miscalculations” when the organisation was set up, as well as its inability to win new business.

“It is totally unacceptable to force staff to pay for these mistakes by cutting their conditions of employment,” he added.

He also accused the company of attempting to “strong-arm” staff into accepting the new conditions.

Jane Miller, chief operating officer at Care Plus Group, said: “This is not an easy time for everyone, but doing nothing is unfortunately not an option for us.

“We were disappointed that some staff chose not to accept the changes to their terms and followed the line of their trade union representatives.

“We will be working to help staff understand better the context in which we are having to do this.

“I’d like to reassure staff that no redundancies are proposed. Earlier in the year we conducted an extensive and thorough consultation with staff and as a 
result made some amendments 
to the original proposal, but unfortunately a number of staff chose to reject the proposed changes.

“We have therefore reluctantly taken the formal step of starting a further 45-day period of consultation with the trade unions with a view to introducing the necessary changes. We’re hoping that through collective bargaining we’ll reach agreement.

“We’ve been clear with the unions that we’re aiming to reach agreement with them. Dismissal and re-engagement would be an absolute last resort.

“At the end of the consultation we will issue staff with new contracts and we are hopeful they will sign and accept their new terms and conditions.”