Millennium bonus chaos will cost health service millions of pounds

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The Independent Online
MOST MANAGERS of NHS trusts believe the Government's stance on millennium pay has created a "ridiculous" and unfair situation that could lead to widespread industrial action.

Earlier this year, the Government decided not to set out a national, service-wide agreement on enhanced pay rates for health care staff working over the millennium holiday, leaving individual health trusts to make their own arrangements.

But research published in Health Service Report, a journal published by the Industrial Relations Services, has found 91 per cent of trust managers would have preferred a national agreement. Additional pay over the millennium is estimated to cost each trust about pounds 200,000.

"The absence of a national agreement on millennium pay has left many employers in an uncomfortable position," said Adam Geldman, editor of Health Service Report.

The research, which included 85 of the 375 trusts in England, found there was a wide diversity in pay rates on offer, with some health service staff receiving up to five times their normal rate while others will get only their normal pay.

Just over half of the trusts surveyed are intending to pay a one-off bonus to those working on 31 December, which has been made a public holiday. Most NHS employers will be paying between pounds 101 and pounds 150.

Three-quarters of employers will be paying on-call staff their normal rate on New Year's Day and 95 per cent of trusts say they are intending to pay normal rates and allowances over the remainder of the Christmas and New Year period. Only a minority of trusts, 30 per cent, will be enhancing the rates of pay for staff over the millennium.

However, NHS staff working in trusts that made or started deals before the Government's announcement will be paid up to five times their basic rate plus time off in lieu. Staff at Sheffield's Northern General Hospital and Doncaster Royal and Montague Hospital stand to be paid much more than the national average for working over the New Year period. But staff who work at Alder Hey Royal Liverpool Children's NHS Trust rejected a regional deal in June and have accused the region's employers of acting as a pay cartel.

"The fact that Unison's conference passed a resolution calling for a national industrial action ballot on millennium pay towards the end of this year has ensured the problem will not go away, even for trusts with localised deals conforming to the official guidelines," Mr Geldman said. "The Government is likely to be embarrassed by this controversy well into the autumn and beyond."