Monday, 31 December 2012

Let's start 2013 with the defence of the NHS! - Public Meeting 16th January

Public Meeting 
(hosted by Bristol Health UNITE branch) 
Wednesday 16th January at 7.30pm
University of Bristol School of Medical Sciences Teaching Rooms
Park Place/ 37-39 St. Michael's Hill BS2
(entrance from raised pavement)

When 1,200 people marched on the streets of Bristol on 1st December, it was not only an act of self defence and solidarity. Health workers and supporters of a national health service know that to defend national terms and conditions is also to defend our NHS from easy pickings for the vultures of privatisation.

As a further step in the campaign to defend our NHS, the UNITE branch for health sector workers in Bristol, Bath and Weston-super-Mare is hosting a public meeting for all concerned about the future of our NHS. As well as Rachel Maskell, the UNITE national officer for health, there are two other speakers who have been persistent campaigners for our NHS. Gill George of the national lay committee for health has always been much appreciated as a powerful speaker when she has spoken at Keep OUR NHS Public meetings in Bristol. Ron Singer, GP, was vociferous about the dangers of the government's Health and Social Care Bill before it was enacted (and can be viewed explaining the implications on the UNITE website).

The Keep Our NHS Public postcards for people to give their GPs will be abundantly available at the public meeting and there will plenty of opportunity for speakers from the floor to put forward ideas for local campaigning.

Download the flyer:

Review of 2012 - WAKE UP AND FIGHT!

2012 was another challenging year for the branch, and again thanks must go to all North Somerset UNISON members who have got involved in the branch, either by becoming branch officers, reps and contacts, or by attending lobbies, marches and rallies.

In January UNISON went back into negotiations with the government for both the Local Government and NHS Pension schemes. Our industrial action had brought some success, particularly for Local Government members, although not so much for our members in Health. The negotiations continued well into the Spring.

As in previous years in January and February the branch spent a lot of its time campaigning against the cuts in the run up to North Somerset Council’s budget setting meeting. But this year our ranks were swelled by young people from Portishead, Nailsea and Weston Youth Clubs who came to council meetings to protest about the complete removal of youth services in North Somerset. The young people were very vociferous, in fact downright loud, at our lobbies of council meetings during January and February, and we got some great TV coverage. Some of the young people also spoke at the council meetings. UNISON members lobbied councillors to protest at the £50 million of cuts over 4 years and the loss of 280 full-time jobs. Again we argued that the cuts will impact on the most vulnerable people in North Somerset – disabled people, young people and older people. We asked the council to reject the government’s bribe of a council tax freeze, which although seems attractive at this current moment in time, would lead to a massive hole in their budget in future years and therefore further cuts. Sadly our council is more interested in retaining its position as the second lowest council taxing authority in the South West and so the budget cuts were voted through.

Also in January we published the results of our members survey on the Council’s £100 million, 10 year contract for Support Services with Agilisys. Not a single North Somerset UNISON member thought that services were quicker, better or cheaper since the services had been privatised.

If you want to know why UNISON opposes the privatisation of public services then all you have to do is look at what’s happening with some of the council’s contracts to see why staff transferring under TUPE are not protected. Agilisys have done a number of restructures, and made staff redundant in ICT. They have also reduced unsociable hours payments not long before the Town Hall gateway extended its hours to weekends. There have also been a number of health and safety issues in the new town hall. Former council staff at the Winter Gardens, Playhouse and Tourist Information Centre who were TUPE transferred to Parkwood are being restructured, posts made redundant and unsocial hours payments reduced.

In February our campaign to stop the cuts to Youth Services was featured in UNISON’s In Focus magazine, which goes out monthly to all activists. Also in February a few of us from the branch went to a demonstration at Swindon Council, where the council are proposing to completely cut trade union facility time, and make two UNISON Reps redundant – I understand that the consultation on this proposal is still ongoing as we end 2012 and should be a concern for trade unionists throughout the UK.

In March the Health and Social Care bill was going through its final stages and a few members of the branch attended a rally in London, where we heard speakers including the comedian Jo Brand, our General Secretary Dave Prentis and Lib Dem MP Andrew George - all speaking against the privatisation of our NHS.

Also in March the branch signed an agreement called An Alternative to Austerity with Labour, Green and Independent councillors in North Somerset. The agreement sets out UNISON’s view of “An Alternative to Austerity” - an approach based on sustainable growth and the increased tax revenue, which will come from greater employment and business activity. Crucial to achieving this is a fairer tax system so that those who can afford to pay most do pay the most, and the Government putting an end to the tax avoidance and evasion that costs the country up to £125bn each year. At a local level it recognises that Local Councils have a key role in providing essential services, creating jobs, promoting economic development and challenging the Government’s policies. Public services, including local authorities have an essential role getting the economy through and out of recession.

In April our facility time was reduced and the council are also now charging us rent for our office. But compared to what is happening at Swindon Council, where the council are proposing a complete cut to facility time, we got off lightly. But our facility agreement is under review and is likely to be cut further as the council employs less staff and less union members. The message is for all members to recruit colleagues who aren’t currently UNISON members. Our union’s strength is in its members.

Also in April the branch started to run meetings for members affected by North Somerset Council’s proposal to create a new Integrated Care Organisation for North Somerset with its plan to merge the council’s Adults and Children’s services with Weston General Hospital and North Somerset Community Partnership. The council’s preferred option was a brand new organisation – effectively a privatisation of Health and Social Care in North Somerset.

In April the negotiations on the NHS pension concluded and UNISON Health members received ballot papers asking them to vote on the final proposals. The turnout of the ballot was very low, with only a small majority in favour of rejecting and taking industrial action. As a result UNISON had no option but to agree to the proposals, which will see increased contributions for members earning over a full-time equivalent salary of £26,558.

In May the parent of one of the young people affected by the Youth Services cuts began the process for taking legal action against the council on the grounds of failure to consult, and a very poor equality impact assessment. A North Somerset UNISON Rep provided a witness statement to the court. The judicial review took place in June, but the judge didn’t rule until July, when unfortunately he ruled in favour of the Council. As we end 2012 the lawyers taking the case have a hearing date in January to ask a judge to grant an appeal.

The branch continued its campaign against the Integrated Care Organisation during May, June, and July. At the end of May it was also revealed that 20 NHS Trusts in the South West had formed a consortium with the express aim of reducing the pay and conditions of NHS staff in the South West. Despite David Cameron’s promise to protect the NHS, hospitals are having to make massive cuts and they are looking at the staff pay bill to make these cuts. But this is also a move towards regional pay where National Health Service staff in the South West could end up on worse terms and conditions than NHS staff in other parts of the country.

In June UNISON members working at North Somerset Council were balloted on changes to the council’s flexi time policy. Although the initial and not terribly thorough consultative ballot indicated some members were willing to take industrial action over the issue, when we moved to a ballot of all members the turnout was so incredibly low (6%) we could not take action. The message for members is that it is really important that they take part in the democratic processes of their union. Our strength is not only in our numbers, but is also about members standing together and standing up for each other.

Also in June a member of the branch attended the Local Government conference in Bournemouth, where the main issues for debate included pensions and pay. UNISON will be campaigning heavily over local government pay in the run up to the pay claim for the 2013 pay increase. After 3 years of a pay freeze local government workers have lost about 13% of their pay. Almost 20% of North Somerset Council staff earn an hourly rate which is below the living wage of £7.45 an hour. The lowest paid local government workers now earn only 10 pence above the minimum wage. Many local government workers, including North Somerset Council workers earning under £21,000 did not receive the £250 pay increase promised by George Osborne. Inflation has been high over the period of our pay freeze, it was falling, but is now on the increase again. The Local Government pay claim demands ‘a substantial flat rate increase on all scale points as a step towards the longer term objective of restoring pay levels and achieving the Living Wage as the bottom NJC spinal column point’.

In July Local Government pensions negotiations came to a conclusion and UNISON members were balloted on the proposals. Although there will be contribution increases for those earning over £43.000, there will be no contribution increases for the vast majority of UNISON members. But as in Health there was no movement from the government on linking our retirement age to the state retirement age, and also the switch from RPI to CPI for calculating yearly pension increases. Members voted to accept the changes.

In July the campaign against the South West NHS Pay and Conditions Consortium got off the ground with a petition, members meetings, and the agreement of the Labour group at North Somerset Council to take a motion to the council opposing regional pay in the South West.

Also in July our campaign against the Integrated Care Organisation, which had involved the branch submitting a number of papers to North Somerset councillors, along with a UNISON Rep speaking at Scrutiny panels, finally paid off. The council announced that for financial reasons they would not be proceeding with a brand new organisation, but instead would look at closer partnership working - something which we had argued for all along. Although this was a good outcome for Local Government members, this now means that the future of Weston General Hospital is uncertain, and it will have to look at merging with another hospital – either in Bristol or Taunton, or even worse it may be taken over by a private company.

Over the summer the London Olympics and Paralympics gripped the nation, and at least two members of North Somerset UNISON were amongst the army of volunteers who made the games such a success. The Olympics also demonstrated yet again how the State has to bail out the private sector when the armed forces had to be called in because G4S who had been contracted to provide security couldn't do the job properly.

North Somerset UNISON had been negotiating with the council for almost 2 years on proposed reductions to unsocial hours for our lowest paid members, managing to stop the council from implementing the reductions. In July we undertook the third consultative ballot on final proposals – our recommendation was to reject and be prepared to take industrial action. On a 27% turnout members overwhelmingly rejected the proposals and said they would be prepared to take industrial action to protect their enhancements. The branch submitted a paper to councillors with evidence of how low paid local government workers are, including the fact that almost 20% of council staff earn under the living wage, and that we haven’t had a pay rise since 2009. As a result in August the council decided to postpone the proposed reduction to enhancements until we get a cost of living increase. They have also undertaken to provide tapered protection so that enhancements are not reduced all in one go. This was the best deal achievable through negotiation.

In September regional pay was the big issue for the branch. Health and Local Government members took part in a lobby against the South West NHS Pay Consortium at Weston General Hospital at the beginning of the month. At the end of September North Somerset councillors debated a motion opposing regional pay proposed by Labour councillors at UNISON’s request. Sadly due to the massive Tory majority and the fact that Conservative councillors were not allowed a free vote on the issue the motion was lost.

In October the UNISON office moved back to the Town Hall from Badger House, and the branch took two coach loads of members to the March for a Future that Works in London. We joined 150,000 people who marched through the streets of London to show their opposition to the government’s austerity programme. The march concluded in a rally in Hyde Park, where there were calls for a General Strike. It was a great day and we hope that 150,000 people have sent a powerful message to the government that they need to stop the massive cuts to public services, and instead switch to a plan that will give everyone a future that works.

Late last year the council employed KPMG to review the Support Services contract – a UNISON Rep was interviewed as part of the process. KPMG submitted their report to the council in April this year, and we had been trying to get a copy of it through Freedom of Information ever since. Finally in November we were issued with a copy of the summary report with one small redaction. The report outlines some serious issues with the contract. These include contract management, how key performance indicators are set, poor service for staff, and lack of procurement savings. As I write this review we are still trying to get the redaction reinstated, as well as get hold of a copy of the full report.

We ended the year with members of the branch taking part in the joint trade union march and rally against the South West NHS Pay Consortium in Bristol, and the start of the consultation with Health members on the proposed changes to their national terms and conditions – Agenda for Change.

Throughout the year the branch has been involved in numerous service reviews, including the massive Library restructure, and represented well over 100 members in individual cases.

Throughout the year we have also worked with colleagues in the PCS, NUT, UNITE and RMT through the Weston and North Somerset Trades Union Council.

As we start 2013 we will continue to fight the cuts in North Somerset – we have a lobby planned for the council budget setting meeting on 19th February. As a result of the failure of the Coalition’s public spending cuts, and George Osborne’s insistence that cuts must continue beyond 2015, North Somerset Council’s central government funding has been cut massively, and on top of the £50 million of cuts they planned to make between 2011 and 2015, they now have to make an extra £36 million up to 2018. The Coalition government’s attitude to local government makes it very clear that they don’t actually want local government to exist. They have made it even more difficult for councils across the country by capping the council tax increase at 2%, thus depriving councils of income from that source. But North Somerset Council has made matters worse for itself over a number of years with its below inflation council tax increases and its acceptance of the government’s bribe of a council tax freeze grant, which has left the council with a hole in their budget which we have estimated previously to be close to £8 million. UNISON will be responding to the budget consultation and will ask the council to reject the council tax freeze grant this year, and increase council tax by either the maximum amount of 2%, or an even higher increase which would force a referendum, and in doing so will send a very strong message to the government. This will also go a small way to mitigating the impact of the cuts.

We will also find out whether or not the council will merge its Adults and Children’s Services directorates. In January the Police will move into the town hall, and in April our members in Public Health will TUPE transfer to the council. In January the South West NHS Pay Consortium are due to announce their final proposals to cut staff pay and conditions. It is also likely that we will have another reduction in our facility time in 2013. As a result we need as many members as possible to step forward to become reps.

So what will be the big issues in the coming year? My personal view is that Local Government workers will be out on strike over pay, and I hope that we will be joined by many other workers, and in that way get the General Strike that was called for at the March for a Future that Works, and that in my wildest dreams will bring this government down. I hope that the issue of tax avoidance, so successfully raised over the past two years, and particularly in the last month of 2012 by UK Uncut, will become a major issue and those Global corporations that don’t pay tax here in the UK will come under further attack both from their customers, and those smaller businesses who do pay taxes. I also hope that we will see many more campaigns for the Living Wage, including here in North Somerset.

In 2012 the Conservative government made it very clear that we are not all in this together, although the worst may be yet to come. This year the government came a step closer to completely privatising the NHS. They have also been successful at making those people who work, often in poorly paid jobs – the so-called strivers, dislike those people who claim benefits – the so-called scroungers - not realising that the majority of people claiming benefits are in fact working, and that the vast majority of unemployed people claiming benefits want to work. We all need the safety net that unemployment and sickness benefits provide because we are all at risk of losing our jobs or becoming ill. We need to be putting ourselves in other people’s shoes and think about the golden rule “do to others as you would be done to”. The UK is such a low wage economy that benefits in the form of tax credits are needed to bring people up to subsistence levels, but at the same time are subsidising those employers who refuse to pay their workers a decent wage. In April the cuts to benefits will really start to bite, and those claiming them will see a cap of 1% on yearly increases. The government have also reduced employment rights – most recently a reduction of the 90 days consultation period for redundancies down to 45 days - in a country, where we already have very poor employment rights. If we allow this government to remain in power until 2015 then the welfare state – the safety net created for us all after the Second World War – will have been completely dismantled.

At the beginning of 2012 I referred to Woody Guthrie’s new year’s resolutions for 1942 including his resolution number 33 “Wake up and Fight”. I sincerely hope that those UNISON members and other people in this country, who haven’t woken up to what the Conservative government is doing, will finally WAKE UP AND FIGHT!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Consultative Ballot on proposed changes to Agenda for Change

On November 21st UNISON's Health Service Group Executive (HSGE) agreed to consult members on the proposed changes to the Agenda for Change (AfC) agreement. The HSGE is asking your opinion on the following questions:

1. Are you willing to accept the proposed changes to the Agenda for Change agreement rather than the likely alternatives of terms and conditions being set at a local level?
2. Would you be willing to take industrial action, inclusive of sustained strike action, to defend your terms and conditions locally?
3. Would you be willing to take industrial action short of strike action to defend your terms and conditions locally?

Your HSGE believes that accepting these proposals represents the best way to protect and maintain the national agreement through negotiations and is a better alternative to terms and conditions being set on a trust-by-trust basis. If these proposals are rejected it is likely that we will witness an increased number of NHS trusts seeking to “break away” from Agenda for Change which may mean having to take action to stop your employer implementing changes which are more drastic than those contained in these proposals.

In the South West we are already experiencing the threat of Trusts “breaking away” from Agenda for Change in form of the “South West NHS Pay Cartel”.  At this point in time we have no assurances from the Trusts in the Cartel that they will withdraw from the Pay Cartel and adhere to national terms and conditions should these national proposals be accepted by our membership, despite our attempts to gain such assurances.

UNISON fought hard for Agenda for Change terms and conditions and as a result we cannot recommend a reduction to terms and conditions to our members. However, members also need to realise that in order to defend Agenda for Change members themselves will have to be prepared to take some form of industrial action – this could be a work to rule, or all out strike.

For more information on the proposals, how they would affect you and what UNISON thinks is the alternative, please follow this link:

Briefly the national proposals are:

Management of sickness absence – the proposal is for pay during sickness absence to be paid at basic salary level with no unsocial hours payments or other allowances linked to working patterns or additional work commitments. This will effect all Agenda for Change staff with the exception of the lowest paid staff on spine points 1-8 (bands 1, 2 and some of band 3), and to those staff who are absent due to a work related injury or disease.

Incremental pay progression – the proposal is to link increments to performance – this means staff won’t receive an increment unless they have demonstrated the required knowledge, skills, competencies, and performance. For the most senior staff in bands 8C, 8D and 9 pay progression into the last 2 points in a band will become annually earned and once earned will depend on performance.

Flexibility on senior posts – the proposal is to extend the flexibility to apply alternative pay arrangements to posts with a job evaluation score over 720 (band 9), to posts with a job evaluation score over 630 – this now means that bands 8C and 8D will be included.

Accelerated pay progression for new entrants to Band 5 – the proposal is to remove this with effect from 1st April 2013.

Guidance on workforce re-profiling – there will be guidance setting out the principles to be followed will be included as a new annex to the NHS terms and conditions of service handbook.

Ongoing review of Agenda for Change – there will be an ongoing review of your terms and conditions.

You can view the full document outlining the proposals in more detail at:

Very soon you will receive a consultative ballot paper. Please make sure you respond. Your view is important – Please have your say in this consultation.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Two years on …… are Council services ‘quicker, better and cheaper’?

In October 2010 North Somerset Council embarked on a controversial £100m contract with private contractor Agilisys to run the Council's support services.

At the time Councillors claimed Agilisys would provide a better, more reliable service and improve customer satisfaction, all at lower cost. UNISON opposed the privatisation of support services and seriously questioned the Council's claims.

A year into the contract UNISON surveyed a cross section of members employed by Agilisys and the Council to obtain their views and experiences on how the contract was working.

Not a single member employed by the Council who was surveyed thought the contract had fulfilled the promise that services would be ‘quicker, better or cheaper’.

Of Agilisys and Liberata staff surveyed, almost half (46%) disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that services had improved since being outsourced, with only 21% saying they had got better.

Increased workload and pressure, low morale, office environment and poor communications were identified as particular issues of concern.

A detailed report of our survey findings was published on the branch blog  at:

UNISON then pressed the Council to commission an independent review of the performance of the contract during its first year. This is standard practice for most big council contracts elsewhere.

In December 2011 the Council finally agreed to carry out a review and engaged management consultants KPMG to carry it out. The KPMG report was presented to Council officers in April 2012. However the report was kept secret and not made public for eight months.

Following a request using the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) the Council eventually released a copy of KPMGs ‘Final Summary Report’ in November 2012. The Council has however refused to provide a more detailed report, claiming that none exists. This claim is being challenged, using the FoI. It is a criminal offence to hide the existence of requested information to prevent it being released.

However the summary KPMG report is itself illuminating and in our view damning.

It says that although performance reports indicate that the contract is performing at the level contractually agreed, this positive picture does not correspond with staff feedback about poor quality services in some areas. This suggests that poor performance is not being picked up as a result of inadequate contract management and as a result of using the wrong performance measures.

The report also reveals that over a year into the contract 16 of the 38 agreed performance indicators in the contract are not being reported on!

UNISON warned the Council back in 2010 that it was proposing to put insufficient resources into managing and monitoring the contract, but our warnings were ignored.

The KPMG report also reveals that savings from procurement are significantly lower than promised - £740,000 savings now predicted by the end of 2012/13, instead of the promised £2.4m. Indeed real savings from procurement at the end of this financial year will be just £360,000. All this makes it highly unlikely that the promised savings of £5m by 2014/15 will ever be achieved.

KPMG also reported that council directorates found Agilisys input into procurement reviews was ‘often not helpful’

KPMG also reported that staff expectations have not been met on the quality and delivery of the new FMS. And that Directorates are frustrated by the lack of effective engagement with them and their inability to influence the design of systems and developments to meet their specific service needs.

This finding comes as no surprise to UNISON. Contracts of this type are often inflexible in the way they are implemented.

Oddly the report tries to give some credit to Agilisys for helping to facilitate the delivery of savings in 2011/12 that had already been identified by the Council itself. Perhaps this is not surprising with so little in the report to commend the contract itself.

KPMG do say that in the first year investment in service developments have exceeded predictions, although front-loading investment is common in contracts of this type with the costs being recovered by the contractor in later years. It also says a significant number of new jobs have been created locally, although these claims need to be investigated further as the job creation benefits of this type of contract are notoriously difficult to validate. However any net increase in the numbers of jobs would be welcomed.

The KPMG report raises very serious questions about the credibility of the contract and the promises made. Although the Council has adopted a number of recommendations designed to improve the performance of the contract UNISON is worried that some targets may be reduced to make it easier for Agilisys to hit them. We are also concerned that additional payments made to Agilisys under the contract may not have been correctly calculated, something that is implicitly acknowledged by the KPMG report.

Finally it is very clear that KPMG regard confidence in the contract as low
The Council’s initial reluctance to carry out the review, and its subsequent reluctance to publish the review are an on-going cause of concern for UNISON. There are many questions that still need answering and we will be pursuing these over the coming months, not least why the Council continues to deny the existence of a more detailed report that we strongly believe does exist. Unless the Council is completely open and commits itself to a continuing and frequent process of independent reports there is a real fear that the Agilisys contract will become another expensive contract failure all too familiar in local government.

The Summary Report can be downloaded at:

Sunday, 25 November 2012

What Trade Unions have done for Us

Here's a great poster showing what trade unions have done for workers in the U.S.A. You can see more posters like this at:

Friday, 23 November 2012

Stop the Privatisation of our NHS - Lobby North Somerset PCT on 28th November

Next Wednesday could be an important day for the future of the NHS in Bristol, North Somerset and Gloucestershire. 38 Degrees members are getting together to meet the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Primary Care Trust Cluster. This get-together will be a chance to lobby the NHS Cluster Group and hand in the local NHS petition to your Clinical Commissioning Group. Could you come along?

Meet at 9.30 am on Wednesday 28th November
Clevedon Hall
Victoria Road
BS21 7RQ

Please click here to join in or find out more:

This campaign is about local 38 Degrees members coming together to stop local NHS services being broken up and privatised.

The government’s changes to the NHS have put responsibility for spending NHS money, and deciding what your local health service looks like, in the hands of groups run by local doctors. These groups are called "Clinical Commissioning Groups" (CCGs).

The CCGs will be under pressure to cut services and hand contracts to private health companies. But if we work together we can persuade them to instead adopt policies which protect our local NHS.

Groups of local 38 Degrees members are well placed to influence their local CCG. CCGs are required by law to pay some attention to local patients. And many doctors involved were opposed to Lansley's changes. They are likely now to be keen to hear ways they can protect services for their patients and block or slow down privatisation.

If we get in early, while CCGs are still being set up, we can get them to write safeguards into their constitutions. These safeguards will help rein in privatisation and protect the NHS.

38 Degrees funded lawyers have prepared watertight wording for CCGs to write into their constitutions. If local 38 Degrees members persuade their CCG to adopt this wording, then we should be able to block or slow down privatisation.

38 Degrees members will be attending the meeting to outline concerns about the consultation process regarding the changes proposed in the NHS locally and some clauses in the draft CCG Constitution

Friday, 9 November 2012

WE ARE ONE NHS - Oppose the South West Pay Cartel - 1st December, Bristol

Join the protest on Saturday 1st December from 11am.

Assemble College Green for March through Bristol starting at 11.30am.

20 bosses from 20 Trusts (including Weston General Hospital, University Hospitals Bristol and North Bristol Trust) seem to think that NHS healthworkers in the South West are worth less than health workers in the rest of England – they’ve forked out £10,000 each in public funds to look at ways of driving down their pay and terms and conditions by ditching the national pay agreement.

Local pay will splinter the NHS, hit the quality of patient care and ease the way for privatisation


Sign and share the national petition to stop the South West Pay Cartel:

Joint NHS union protest for all who support a National Health Service.

For more information: 079 89 105 449

Download and distribute the flyer

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Local Government Pay - Our Pay Matters!

The joint trade unions (UNISON, UNITE and GMB) have now submitted the pay claim to the employers. It is an extensive document, which can be downloaded at:

The document outlines how poorly paid local government workers are in comparison to other public sector workers, and the private sector. After 3 years of a pay freeze local government workers have lost about 13% of their pay. Almost 20% of North Somerset Council staff earn an hourly rate which is below the living wage of £7.20 an hour. The lowest paid local government workers now earn only 10 pence above the minimum wage. Many local government workers, including North Somerset Council workers earning under £21,000 did not receive the £250 pay increase promised by George Osborne. Inflation has been high over the period of our pay freeze, although is falling currently.

The Local Government pay claim demands ‘a substantial flat rate increase on all scale points as a step towards the longer term objective of restoring pay levels and achieving the Living Wage as the bottom NJC spinal column point’.

Have a look at UNISON's video - All in it together - why your pay matters

Come to a meeting to find out more:

8th November at 12.30 at the Town Hall Old Council Chamber

22nd November at 12.30 at Castlewood G08, G09, G10

Sunday, 21 October 2012

North Somerset UNISON members on the march for A Future that Works

On 20th October the branch took 2 coaches full of members and their families to London for the march against Austerity and for A Future that Works. Coaches left Weston super Mare at 7 am and picked up members in Clevedon and Portishead.

Highlights of the day, apart from the march itself of course, were picking up a BECTU hitch hiker at Reading service station, the boat ride from Lambeth pier to Blackfriars, seeing the Shard for the first time, the bands on the march, meeting Ed Hall who made our beautiful branch banner, and a really welcome pint of lager at the end of the day.

A big thanks to our fabulous coach stewards Robbie Gill, Lucinda Holdsworth, Helen Davies and Helen Thornton.

Here are some photos from the day. If any of our members would like to share their photos of the day please contact the branch office: 01934 634759 or just put them on a disc or memory stick and bring them in to us.

Rachel's picture:

Chrissie's picture:

David from Southampton UCU Retired Members sent us this photo - a big thanks to him.


Friday, 19 October 2012

People's Petition Against Austerity

The Coalition of Resistance has launched a People's Petition Against Austerity. It will be handed into Downing Street in June 2013 when they will be hosting a People's Assembly in London to discuss and debate the strategy for resisting austerity.

Over the next few months they want everyone to encourage as many people as possible to sign. A printable version of the petition to take around your workplace, for use on street stalls or to ask family and friends to sign can be downloaded here.

The letter to the Guardian launching the petition reads:

"Austerity is not working. The deficit is growing and the economy flailing. The coalition government remains hopelessly committed to cuts on a scale not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The impact is grotesquely unequal. The rich are getting richer even as the living standards of the majority are cut, and the public services on which they rely are shut down or sold off.

Europe suffers. Greece shows us the future: the European Union, ECB and IMF austerity measures have shrunk the economy by more than 20% in just three years, with a quarter of Greeks now unemployed.

Austerity is an economic catastrophe. The government must be forced off its current course. Hundreds of thousands are set to join the TUC march on 20 October. To coincide with this, we are launching a People's Petition for an Alternative to Austerity. The petition will be handed in to 10 Downing Street in June 2013, when we will be holding a People's Assembly in London to bring together all those opposed to cuts and debate a strategy for opposing them.

Everyone who wants to save the welfare state and resist spending cuts should sign and support the petition and the People's Assembly as a step towards creating a mass movement against austerity."

Friday, 12 October 2012

March for a Future that Works - Coaches from Weston, Clevedon & Portishead

Our coaches to the March for A Future that Works in London on 20th October are almost full.

Coaches leave Weston super Mare Locking Road car park at 7 am sharp, and pick up at Clevedon Castlewood at 7.45 am, and Portishead Police HQ at 7.45 am.

If you want to book the last few seats then go to:

Or contact the branch on 01934 634759 or Bookings are free for UNISON members, with a small charge for non-members.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Weston Mercury article on Regional Pay Debate

Protests fall on deaf ears

Article by Tom Wright and James Franklin in today's Weston Mercury

PROTESTS have been held outside the Town Hall and Weston General Hospital over the potential introduction of regional pay in the NHS.

Dozens of people raised Unison placards and called for a change of policy ahead of a North Somerset Council meeting on Tuesday evening and Weston Area Health Trust (WAHT) AGM yesterday (Wednesday).

North Somerset Unison members are pushing for the trust to abandon plans to form part of a South West consortium along with 19 other health trusts.

The so-called postcode lottery could mean NHS staff in Weston are paid less than other areas of the country despite carrying out the same job, a spokesman said. She added in some cases staff could lose out by up to 15 per cent.

Labour councillor Richard Tucker called for the council to make a stand against the idea and to back Unison’s calls to pressure WAHT to change its policy, too.

Speaking at Tuesday’s full council meeting, he said: “Workers would be paid less on average than their colleagues in Birmingham or Southampton doing the same job – in short the break-up of what was in created in 1948 as the NHS.”

Labour colleague Catherine Gibbons added: “It would be unfair to suggest that people in the public sector should be paid less for choosing to work in a rural area and I believe North Somerset will be adversely affected.”

However, councillors voted against the motion by a ratio of 27 to nine.

The Unison spokesman said thousands of people could be affected by the regional pay consortium. She said: “In North Somerset there are 20,000 public sector workers. This is the largest employment sector in the district with just over a quarter of all employees.

“About 2,000 of these public sector employees work for the health trust.

“Public sector workers are already feeling the pinch from pay freezes, the VAT rise and inflation. The further loss of income for health care workers will impact on the North Somerset economy.

“Holding back public sector pay will take money out of public sector workers’ pockets that they would otherwise spend in local shops and businesses.”

A WAHT spokesman said no definite proposals on pay levels have been put forward.

She said: “The consortium and this trust believe the challenge can best be addressed by exploring options for change and flexibility around pay, terms and conditions, without the need for a large reduction in staff numbers that would undermine services and impact on patients and staff.”

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

UNISON's questions about the Pay Consortium for Weston Hospital's AGM

North Somerset UNISON members attended tonight's Annual General Meeting of Weston Area Health Trust. We submitted the following papers to Board members.

Questions for Hospital AGM

Handout for Hospital AGM

We asked 4 questions

Q. Who took the decision to join the Pay Consortium, and when was the decision taken?
A. The Board took the decision at their meeting in June, or possibly May - they will check and confirm.

Q. Has the Trust Board retained full authority for taking key decisions on involvement in the Pay Consortium, and if not which body has that authority been delegated to?
A. The Board will make the final decision on whether or not to implement the proposals of the Pay Consortium

Q. Which budget has the £10,000 joining fee come from?
A. The operational budget.

Q. Have the Trust received the letter from UNISON's Head of Health regarding the Pay Cartel and if so have they replied?
A. Yes, a reply was sent late last week.

We have requested answers in writing to all of our questions outlined in the document above and have been informed we will get these within the next few days.

Write to your Councillor about the South West NHS Pay Cartel

One of the Conservative councillors in last night's North Somerset Council debate on Regional Pay told the meeting that she had been contacted by many of her constituents who are concerned about the proposals of the South West Pay Cartel. This particular councillor did not vote to support the motion, but she did abstain.

Write to your Councillor to tell them what you think about regional pay and ask them how they voted in North Somerset Council's debate on regional pay on 25th September.

Find out who your Councillor is at:

Here's a template letter you can use, or you can write your own telling them about the impact on you.

Send your letter to your Councillor at: North Somerset Council, Town Hall, Weston super Mare, BS23 IUJ.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

North Somerset Council vote against Motion opposing Regional Pay

Tonight North Somerset Council debated a Motion opposing Regional Pay proposed by Labour councillor Richard Tucker. 9 councillors, including Labour, Green, Independent and Lib Dem got up to ensure that the motion was debated, but when Councillor Tucker asked for a named vote so that every public sector worker in North Somerset would know where their councillors stood on the matter, the Lib Dems didn't get up and so the named vote did not take place, and thanks to the massive Tory majority in North Somerset the Motion was voted against.

North Somerset Tories have shown precisely how they feel about public sector workers across the district, and public sector workers in turn must show how they feel about North Somerset Tories at the ballot box in 2015.

It is a huge disappointment for UNISON that Liberal Democrats, who nationally have opposed regional pay, did not use their votes to allow for a named vote, and also that 2 out of 3 of them went on to abstain from voting on the motion. Lib Dem councillor Mike Bell was absent from tonight's council meeting because he was at Lib Dem conference voting for a motion opposing regional pay - here's the link:

North Somerset UNISON members watched the debate from the public gallery and were joined by members of the local Labour and Green parties.

As far as the debate went Councillors Tucker, Gibbons, Leimdorfer, Davies and Willis spoke to support the Motion opposing Regional Pay. Councillor Willis went on to abstain in the vote.

Councillors Lake, Blatchford and Ashton (all Tory Executive members) spoke to oppose the motion and support Regional Pay.

In the end the vote was: 9 For, 27 Against, 8 Abstentions.

12 councillors sent their apologies.

North Somerset has 61 councillors.

Here is the list of councillors who stood up and voted for the motion opposing regional pay at tonight's meeting:

Richard Tucker, Labour, Weston East
Catherine Gibbons, Labour, Weston East
Bob Bateman, Labour, Weston South
Ian Parker, Labour, Weston South
Tom Leimdorfer, Green, Congresbury
Donald Davies, Independent, Pill
Geoff Coombs, Independent, Backwell
Deborah Yamanaka, Lib Dem, Wrington
Karen Barclay, Independent, Backwell

Here is a list of those 8 councillors who abstained, including a few brave Conservatives:

Roz Willis, Conservative, Weston Milton & Old Worle
Jan Barber, Conservative, Nailsea East
Phil Judd, Conservative, Weston North Worle
Linda Knott, Conservative, Clevedon South
Marcia Pepperall, Conservative, Weston North Worle
Mark Canniford, Lib Dem, Weston West
John Crockford-Hawley, Lib Dem, Weston West
Hugh Gregor, Independent, Winford

2 councillors were unable to vote or take part in the debate because they are NHS workers or the partners of NHS workers. These councillors were:

Debbie Stone, Labour, Weston South
Robert Payne, Lib-Dem, Weston West

The following councillors were absent from the meeting and sent apologies:

Mike Bell, Lib Dem, Weston Central
Andy Cole, Independent, Nailsea East
Ann Harley, Conservative, Banwell & Winscombe
Clare Kingsbury-Bell, Lib Dem, Weston Central
Reyna Knight, Conservative, Portishead Central
Alan McMurray, Conservative, Portishead South & North Weston
Tony Moulin, Independent, Yatton
John Norton-Sealey, Conservative, Clevedon Walton
David Poole, Conservative, Clarence & Uphill
Ian Porter, Conservative, Kewstoke
David Shopland, Independent, Clevedon East
Liz Wells, Conservative, Blagdon & Churchill

This means that it's very likely that 27 out of the 30 following were the 27 councillors who voted against the motion and therefore support regional pay:

Elfan Ap Rees, Conservative, Hutton & Locking
Nigel Ashton, Conservative, Gordano
Felicity Baker, Conservative, Portishead Redcliff Bay
Chris Blades, Conservative, Clevedon West
Jeremy Blatchford, Conservative, Nailsea North & West
Mary Blatchford, Conservative, Nailsea North & West
Peter Bryant, Conservative,Weston Clarence & Uphill
Charles Cave, Conservative,Wraxall & Long Ashton
Robert Cleland, Conservative,Weston South Worle
Bob Cook, Conservative,Wraxall & Long Ashton
Peter Crew, Conservative, Weston South Worle
Carl Francis-Pester, Conservative, Easton-in-Gordano
Stephen Fudge, Conservative, Weston Milton & Old Worle
Bob Garner, Conservative, Clevedon North
Colin Hall, Conservative, Clevedon Yeo
David Hitchins, Conservative, Weston South Worle
Jill Iles, Conservative, Yatton
David Jolley, Conservative, Portishead West
Anne Kemp, Conservative, Nailsea North & West
Tony Lake, Conservative, Banwell & Winscombe
Tim Marter, Conservative, Banwell & Winscombe
David Pasley, Conservative, Portishead Coast
Dawn Payne, Conservative, Weston East
Nick Pennycott, Conservative, Clevedon Central
Lisa Pilgrim, Conservative, Weston Milton & Old Worle
Terry Porter, Conservative, Hutton & Locking (Chairman)
Sonia Russe, Conservative, Weston North Worle
Arthur Terry, Conservative, Portishead East
Annabel Tall, Conservative, Yatton
Clive Webb, Conservative, Weston Clarence & Uphill

And 3 of the above 30 didn't put their hand up to vote for, against or abstain.

So if your councillor is on the list of those who voted against the motion and therefore support regional pay, or on the list of abstentions and apologies, why don't you write to them and try to change their mind by telling them what the impact will be on you, your family and your community.

10 Questions Weston Area Health Trust need to answer about the Pay Consortium

UNISON members will put the following questions to the Trust Board at their Annual General Meeting on 26th September.

1. Who took the decision to join the Pay Consortium, and when was the decision taken?

2. Has the Trust Board retained full authority for taking key decisions on involvement in the Pay Consortium, and if not which body has that authority been delegated to?

3. Which budget has the £10,000 joining fee come from?

4. The Annual Review says the Trust made surpluses of £3.6 million in 2011/12, £2.6 million in 2010/11 and £2.4 million in 2009/10. Why then is there a need for pay cuts?

5. The Annual review says the Trust intend to make £4.5 million of savings overall in 2012/13. How much does the Trust intend to save from the Pay & Conditions Consortium proposals?

6. Has the Trust considered alternative ways of making efficiency savings, e.g. reduced spend on agency staff and business consultants, opportunities for cost sharing, more efficient every day processes, procurement savings, environmental savings such as installation of solar panels to generate electricity to sell back to the grid?

7. The Annual review says that the Trust has invested £1 million into energy efficiency – how much does it expect to save from this investment?

8. Has the Pay Consortium undertaken an equality impact assessment of the proposals to cuts staff pay and conditions? It is really important that this is done at an early stage, so that those of the 28 proposals being considered, which would have a disproportionate impact on people with the protected characteristics (gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion / belief etc), are immediately eliminated from your considerations.

9. Has the Trust considered the impact on staff morale and consequently recruitment and retention of reducing pay and conditions, particularly at a time when the Trust is considering creating an Integrated Care Organisation and is trying to become a Foundation Trust? A move to regional pay may ultimately add to the pay bill through increased agency costs?

10.The Trust is no doubt aware of the connection between low income and poor health. Has the Trust considered the long-term impact on the region of lower incomes, poorer health outcomes and therefore increased pressure on the NHS?

Friday, 21 September 2012

Weston Hospital Lobbies over Regional Pay

Members of North Somerset UNISON, which represents workers at Weston General Hospital will be lobbying the Hospital's AGM next week and Trust Board Meetings over the next few months. The times and dates are as follows:

26th September at 5.30 pm - Lobby of Annual General Meeting - meet outside the Academy at the Hospital

2nd October from 7.30 am to 10.30 am - Lobby of Trust Board Meeting - meet on the road outside the Hospital

6th November from 7.30 am to 10.30 am - Lobby of Trust Board Meeting - meet on the road outside the Hospital

4th December from 7.30 am to 10.30 am - Lobby of Trust Board Meeting - meet on the road outside the Hospital

It's really important that as many hospital staff try to attend these lobbies, if only for 5 or 10 minutes, so that your employer can see how you feel about regional pay.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

North Somerset Council to debate Motion on Regional pay - 25th September

Labour councillor Richard Tucker will propose the following motion at the council's meeting on 25th September.

North Somerset UNISON members will be lobbying the meeting from 5.30 pm outside the Town Hall in Weston super Mare. If you think it's unfair that a nurse should be paid less in Weston super Mare than Birmingham then come along and show the councillors how you feel.

North Somerset UNISON have submitted a paper to councillors ahead of their meeting. You can read it here.

Here's the motion:

Regional and Local Public Sector Pay Council Motion

The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in the 2012 Budget the desire to introduce 'more market facing' public sector pay, leading to regional and local variation. Weston Area Health Trust is already part of a Consortium seeking to break away from national NHS terms and conditions. Regional and local variations could mean that local public sector workers would have worse pay and conditions than other parts of the country. This would make it harder to recruit and retain skilled staff. This region already has the least affordable houses outside London and the South East. The average hourly pay for workers in North Somerset is already below the national average and the district has been identified as being vulnerable to increased levels of poverty if there is further economic downturn.

Council resolves to oppose moves towards regional and localised public sector pay and to communicate its opposition to such plans to the government, local MPs, Weston Area Health Trust and other relevant organisations.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

UNISON, UNITE and RCN Lobby of Weston Hospital Board Meeting over Regional Pay

Members of North Somerset UNISON, UNITE and the RCN demonstrated at Weston General Hospital early this morning, against plans to introduce regional pay in the NHS across the South West. At lunch time members of North Somerset UNISON were on Weston High Street asking members of the public to sign a petition against Regional Pay. Here are a few pictures from the lobby.

Labour Councillor Richard Tucker joined us at today's lobby.

Here's some media coverage of today's lobby of Weston Hospital's Board meeting:

North Somerset UNISON Rep Gill Malakooti on BBC Points West - 7th September:

Christina Cook and Gill Malakooti on BBC Radio Bristol - 2 hours 10 minutes in:

Christina Cook on BBC Radio Somerset - 55 minutes in:

Bristol Evening Post:

Western Daily Press:

Weston Mercury:

Further Lobbies on the following dates:

25th September at 5.30 pm – UNISON Lobby of North Somerset Council meeting, where a motion against regional pay will be debated – meet outside the town hall in Weston super Mare

26th September at 5.30 pm - Lobby at Weston Hospital Annual General Meeting - meet outside the Academy

2nd October – Lobby of Weston Hospital Board Meeting, 7.30 am to 10.30 am

6th November – Lobby of Weston Hospital Board Meeting, 7.30 am to 10.30 am

4th December – Lobby of Weston Hospital Board Meeting, 7.30 am to 10.30 am

Friday, 31 August 2012

Dr Liam Fox's response to TUC letter on Regional Pay

The following link takes you to Liam Fox's response to South West TUC's letter on Regional Pay and the South West NHS Pay Cartel:

The South West TUC's Pay Fair campaign website is at this link:

Local Government Pay - We need members' views

UNISON is already beginning negotiations with the local government employers for the pay claim for next year 2013-14.

After 3 years of a pay freeze local government workers have lost about 13% of their pay. Many local government workers, including North Somerset Council workers earning under £21,000 did not receive the £250 pay increase promised by George Osborne. Inflation has been high over the period of our pay freeze, although is falling currently. Given that councils have had their funding cut it is unlikely that UNISON can negotiate a pay increase to make up for our loss of pay over the last 3 years, unless of course members are prepared to take sustained industrial action. As a result UNISON negotiatiors would like to negotiate A substantial flat rate increase on all scale points as a step towards the longer term objective of restoring pay levels and achieving the Living Wage as the bottom NJC spinal column point and they need UNISON members views on this.

The branch would also like your views on how much that flat rate increase should be? Should it be £500, £1000, £2000 or another figure?

The NJC Pay Claim 2013-14 document contains further information, which I advise you to read.

You may also want to consider that almost 20% of North Somerset Council staff earn an hourly rate which is below the living wage, and of these 92% are female and 8% are male. As a result a flat rate increase of £2000 would take all North Somerset Council staff currently earning close to the minimum wage up to the living wage.

Please let us know what you think about a flat rate pay increase, and what that figure should be by emailing the branch office with your response by 30th September:

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Lobby of Weston Hospital Board Meeting - 4th September 7.30 to 10.30 am

North Somerset UNISON, which represents health care workers at Weston General Hospital, will be lobbying the Board Meeting of Weston Area Health Trust from 7.30 to 10.30 am on 4th September, to demonstrate their opposition to regional pay in Weston super Mare. Weston Hospital is part of a consortium of 20 South West NHS Trusts who have joined together to look at ways of reducing staff pay by up to 15% by moving away from national NHS terms and conditions to regional and local pay rates. This means that a nurse in Weston super Mare will be paid less than a nurse in Birmingham for doing exactly the same job. A move to regional pay will have a devastating effect on the local economy and on patient care across North Somerset. Later on the same day UNISON will also have a stall on Weston High Street asking members of the public if they think pay cuts for NHS workers are fair, and asking them to sign a petition opposing regional pay for Health Care workers in North Somerset.

Meet on Grange Road at either hospital entrance at any time between 7.30 am and 10.30 am on 4th September - we'll provide the banners.

Or come and see us between 12 noon and 4 pm on 4th September on Weston High Street - near the Italian Gardens.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

South West NHS Pay Cartel - Latest Documents

The South West NHS Pay Consortium have now created their own website:

Yesterday they released 2 new discussion documents outlining in more detail some of the things they are looking at to cut staff terms and conditions.

Addressing pay, terms and conditions discussion document 22.8.12

Economic, financial and service challenges discussion document 22.8.12

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Festival for A Future that Works - 22nd September

South Gloucestershire UNISON has organised an event on Saturday 22 September 2012 at Kingswood Park in Bristol. The festival will highlight the cuts to services in the South Gloucestershire council area with the general public and those who work for the council, highlight the alternatives and build for the TUC demo in London on 20 October 2012.

The branch has organised speakers, music, kids entertainment, food, refreshments and will also be involving community groups and much more.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Enhancements - Latest News

UNISON has been negotiating with North Somerset Council over reductions to enhancements for over 2 years. Recently the council have agreed to put on hold any changes to the level of enhancements currently being paid in acknowledgement of the fact that there has been no cost of living pay award for council staff since April 2009. The changes proposed to bring the level of enhancements paid for evening, weekend, Bank Holiday, working etc more in line with other local authorities will not now be progressed until the beginning of the financial year in which a cost of living pay award is agreed.  The current local government pay freeze ends in March 2013, and from April 2013 pay increases will be capped at 1%. The Council have also agreed that they will provide a level of protection for staff, for a fixed period, where the reduced level of enhanced pay would result in a 'pay cut'.  This is the best deal achievable through negotiation. We will shortly be writing to all members affected by this to get their views.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Say No to Regional Pay

Weston Area Health Trust has recently paid £10,000 to join a group of South West NHS Trusts who are now working together to look at ways of reducing staff pay, terms and conditions. This would see them break away from Agenda for Change – the NHS national terms and conditions, and move to regional pay, which means that health care workers in the South West would have worse pay and conditions than in other parts of the country.

UNISON is firmly opposed to any attempt to undermine Agenda for Change and the national bargaining process, which underpins it. Not only will this punish health care workers with further cuts, it will have a devastating impact on the local and regional economies, as well as driving down NHS standards of patient care.

What you can do

Use the template letter to:
Email your MP by using the following link:
Write to your MP
Weston super Mare MP - John Penrose, 24-26 Alexandra Parade, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, BS23 1QX
North Somerset MP – Dr Liam Fox, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA         
Write to your Councillor
Find out who your Councillor is at:
Send your letter to your Councillor at: North Somerset Council, Town Hall, Weston super Mare, BS23 IUJ

Attend the monthly meetings at the hospital – next meetings are:

  • 25th September at 12.30 at Weston Hospital, Waverley Room 
  • 24th October at 12.30 at Weston Hospital, Waverley Room
  • 6th November at 12.30 at Weston Hospital Lecture Theatre
  • 29th November at 12.30 at Weston Hospital, Waverley Room

Attend UNISON's lobby of North Somerset Council's Meeting on 25th September at 5.30 pm outside the Town Hall in Weston super Mare, where a motion against regional pay will be debated.

Sign the petition by following this link:

Get more information from the TUC's Pay Fair Campaign website:


Why Regional Pay Doesn't Add Up

We all want to see fair pay for the nurses, teachers and others who work hard to deliver good public services. But on top of pay freezes, the government now wants to change the way pay is set in the public sector.

Instead of a fair, transparent national system, they want local or regional pay that would mean different rates for people doing exactly the same jobs, just because of where they live.

Here are just five reasons why it doesn't add up:

It's unfair

Regional pay could mean two nurses or teachers with the same skills and experience being paid differently in two different places - even though they're doing the same job. People should be paid based on their skills and the work they do, not where they live. Low pay could make it harder for poorer regions to attract and keep the skilled public sector workers they need.

Regional pay could also work against equal pay. Great progress has been made in the public sector in narrowing the pay gap between women and men. For instance, the Agenda for Change system in the NHS was designed to deliver equal pay. Bringing in local or regional pay could unravel this progress.

It's bad for the economy

Public sector workers are already feeling the pinch from pay freezes, the VAT rise and inflation. Regional pay would mean holding back pay for even longer in the parts of the country that are struggling the most.

Holding back public sector pay will take money out of public sector workers' pockets that they would otherwise spend in local shops and businesses. Taking demand out of the economy like this will hurt the private sector and widen the north-south divide.

It isn't backed up by evidence

The government has argued that public sector pay stops the private sector growing. In fact, there's no evidence to support this. There is an average of five people chasing every job vacancy, and up to 30 unemployed people per vacancy in some areas. It's the lack of demand in the economy, not the wages of nurses and teachers that is causing the problem.

It isn't what the private sector does

Most big private sector employers recognise that a national system is the fairest and most efficient way to set pay. In fact, companies like Waterstones, Greggs, Marks and Spencer, BT and Halfords all take the same sort of approach as the public sector: a national pay system with limited additions for London and the south east of England.

It's unpopular

According to a recent opinion poll only 28% of voters believe the idea of extending pay freezes for public sector workers outside of the south east and London would be fair. As few as 17% believe that real term pay cuts for public sector workers would help low pay regional economies. It's time that coalition MPs listened to their constituents, heard their concerns and put a stop to these damaging and divisive plans.