Friday, August 01, 2008

A healthy decision on pay

It is greatly to the credit of the elected lay Health Service Group Executive that they are calling for a reopening of the debate about health service pay.

UNISON will work with the other health unions to submit new evidence to the NHS pay review body making the case for reviewing the 2009/2010 pay rates.

Should the PRB approach the Government proposing to reopen consideration of next year’s pay and the Government were to refuse, the union could declare a trade dispute and ballot for industrial action.

Were the PRB to refuse to approach the Government, the union could also declare a trade dispute and ballot for industrial action.

In neither case – of course – would the trade dispute be with the PRB. A trade dispute must always be with the employer (or with a Minister of the Crown acting as the employer). Regardless of the existence of a Pay Review Body, a trade union can always have a trade dispute with an employer about pay.

It’s called freedom of association…


Gill, Luton said...

That's an abstract argument and clearly you are not familiar with the NHS pay agreement. So you end up misleading NHS trade union members.

The agreement states that:
'Continued Role for the NHS Pay Review Body
It is proposed that the NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB) will continue to gather evidence throughout the period of any multi- year settlement. In the event that the NHSPRB receive and identify new evidence of a significant and material change in recruitment and retention and wider economic and labour market conditions, they may request a remit from the Government to review the increases set out in this agreement for years two and three.'

So surely a pre-condition of a dispute is a refusal by the Government to decline the NHSPRB a remit or a failure to implement recommendations arising from a NHSPRB review.

If the NHSPRB is not persuaded by evidence submitted to seek a remit from Government how do the NHS unions register a trade dispute under the following provision of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992?

A dispute between a Minister of the Crown and any workers shall, notwithstanding that he is not the employer of those workers, be treated as a dispute between those workers and their employer if the dispute relates to matters which—
(a) have been referred for consideration by a joint body on which, by virtue of provision made by or under any enactment, he is represented, or
(b) cannot be settled without him exercising a power conferred on him by or under an enactment.

Gill, Luton said...

The Police Federation sought a judicial review of the Home Secretary's refusal to backdate a PRB award but failed. So for sure there is plenty of doubt about the inviolability of PRB recommendations - they are clearly not statutorily binding on the Minister. You may have a point about whether the NHSPRB is the only channel for union claims. Nonetheless the fact is that such a mechanism has been agreed by the unions as far as the reopener for 2009/10 is concerned.