Strike threat to NHS trusts

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The Independent Online

Labour Editor

A hit list of "tight-fisted" National Health Service trusts was yesterday targeted for industrial action over pay by leaders of more than 300,000 nurses and other health workers.

Unison, the largest health union, gave authority for ballots on disruption including strikes at 66 trusts which had failed to offer an increase of 3 per cent "without strings".

The strategy was announced after the union revealed a four- to-one vote in favour of a new bargaining structure which includes both an element of central and local negotiations.

Because national pay rates will be uprated with reference to local outcomes, the union revealed its intention to maximise offers by individual trusts.

Bob Abberley, head of health at Unison, said he was confident that local negotiations would yield 3 per cent, but said he was determined to back industrial action where trusts refused.

Some of the trusts had offered less than 3 per cent, while others had offered the increase to some staff only. Unison calculates that out of 521 trusts, 472 have made offers, 49 had to reveal their intentions and 66 were "unacceptable".

Under an offer this year nurses were awarded 1 per cent nationally with the opportunity to negotiate up to 2 per cent more at local level.

A deal to establish a framework for negotiations in future had attracted "overwhelming" support among the 325,000 members of Unison involved.

In the first part of a two-year cycle, pay rates will be thrashed out locally.

In the second year, however, national minimum rates will be increased in line with local outcomes before further trust-based bargaining.

The Department of Health welcomed the union's endorsement of the formula, but said local offers were a matter for trust managers.