Bristol healthcare assistants win over £1m in re-banding victory

Over 2,000 healthcare assistants in Bristol hospitals have been re-banded from Band 2 to Band 3 and received up to £4,000 backpay after a UNISON campaign revealed they had been performing clinical duties and patient observations above their grade.

This is the latest victory in UNISON’s ‘pay fair for patient care’ campaign, which saw hospital workers in Manchester win significant back pay last year.

The union has now won significant backpay for members working in the two biggest hospitals in Bristol: North Bristol Trust and University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust.

Workers with over four years’ service received £4,000, those with two to four years’ service received £3,000 and those with less than two years’ service received £2,000.

The money arrived in members’ pay packets in January. For those at the top of Band 2 this will mean a pay rise of £1,859 going forward.

The campaign also included re-banding and a pay increase for apprentices and staff working bank shifts, reflecting UNISON’s ‘put NHS pay right’ campaign.

UNISON officer Louise Chinnery said: “UNISON is successfully winning the argument that healthcare assistants should be at Band 3. There is real momentum behind this campaign.

“For too long healthcare assistants have been working above and beyond to pick up the slack of staff shortages and clinical duties gradually trickling down to HCAs.

“UNISON activists in Bristol have been tenacious and resilient in managing to get big amounts of money directly into workers’ pockets, which is a huge victory.”

Michelle, a healthcare assistant at North Bristol Trust who has been re-banded due to the campaign, said: “I can’t believe how much money I received and the fact I’m now at the top of the band. The money was really needed straight after Christmas and with the price of everything becoming so expensive”

However, the battle for back pay wasn’t straightforward, according to UNISON Concorde Health branch secretary Shawn Fleming: “The staff shortages on wards are horrific, and people are burned out. But UNISON members were unhappy and knew that they were being exploited and had been for a number of years.

“Ultimately, we held management accountable and they had no other option but to settle with us.”

Mr Fleming continued: “Management also came to recognise that this was a viable retention issue for them. It affected a large group of staff hospitals are struggling to recruit because the pay isn’t great. You can’t pay people a pittance if you need them.”

UNISON south west regional organiser Christina Cook said: “Throughout the campaign, we had to keep momentum up. We had the backing of the membership through WhatsApp groups and walking around the hospital. The beauty of North Bristol Trust is that it’s all in one building, so everybody knows everybody.”

Louise Chinnery added: “The pay fair for patient care campaign is about healthcare assistants working together to demand that they are recognised, rewarded and respected for the essential role they play in the NHS.”

If you want to run this campaign in your branch, here are the tools and resources to support you.

The article Bristol healthcare assistants win over £1m in re-banding victory first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Manchester NHS workers get back pay thanks to UNISON campaign

In a landmark victory, thousands of workers across Manchester have received up to £5,000 in backdated earnings thanks to UNISON’s hard-won, six-year battle to have their roles re-banded.

For years, healthcare assistants (HCAs) in hospitals across the city have been performing clinical duties that are above their pay grade. After joining forces within the union’s North West region, they’ve forced Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust to reward and recognise this.

The campaign began in 2016, when Manchester University Health Branch provided diaries to HCAs to document what duties they were doing every day. As branch secretary Wendy Guest explains: “An overwhelming number were doing clinical duties that were above their band and pay”.

Recognising that there was an uphill battle ahead, with the need for a clear strategy and proper resources, in 2019 the region put together a successful UNISON fighting fund bid to employ 10 organisers to be deployed in branches where HCAs were going above and beyond, without being properly paid for doing so.

The result was only possible through what UNISON regional organiser Dan Smith describes as “deep organising”.

“We started off by doing walk rounds in hospitals, face-to-face surveys and meetings to find out what duties healthcare assistants were doing, and how their daily duties matched up to what they were actually paid to do,” he says.

When the results came in, the problem was clear. The majority of healthcare assistants were directly employed on band 2 contracts, which involved the provision of personal care such as bathing, feeding and toileting patients.

However, UNISON found they were also often performing band 3 clinical duties, such as taking and monitoring bloods, carrying out electrocardiogram (ECG) tests, escorting patients unaccompanied, dealing with complex dressings, cannulating veins and recording patient observations.

“We had member meetings where we went through the findings together”, says Mr Smith. When they discovered that people on band 2 contracts were regularly and routinely doing higher band tasks, they asked members what they were willing to do to tackle that.

The answer came in the form of a collective grievance that 350 members put their names to. In the first instance, the trust was slow to respond. So to bring management to the negotiating table, UNISON went to the press and politicians. 

The union organised meetings between frontline healthcare assistants and their local MPs, which eventually led to a Greater Manchester HCA summit, bringing together more than 20 workers with MPs and councillors from across the city. After that event, the group published an open letter signed by seven Greater Manchester MPs and over 40 councillors, urging three key NHS trusts to resolve the long-running dispute.

As a result, three of the biggest trusts in Manchester agreed to collective negotiations with UNISON and then to a Greater Manchester ‘framework agreement’, which ensured the re-banding of healthcare assistants and the potential for back pay up to 1 April 2018.

Members were balloted on the agreement and overwhelmingly accepted.

All HCAs at the trust are now having their jobs reviewed and officially re-banded, and as of last month, back pay began to appear in people’s bank accounts.

The trust has estimated that resolving the issue will cost £16m to resolve this, to which Mr Smith responds: “That’s money that should have been in our members’ pockets anyway. And it’s also about reward, respect and recognition. By making this a band 3 role, it creates upward pressure on wages”.

The impact of the campaign is now being felt in real terms by hospital workers.

UNISON rep Jenna Rooney said she was recently stopped in the corridor by a member who had received £8,000 in their previous pay packet given the back pay.

“It’s amazing to see members receive this – especially at this time when the cost of living is through the roof and people are really struggling. It’s nice for people to have that extra bit of money, to have a bit of breathing space for a month or two.”

Ms Rooney, who has worked as a clinical support worker for Manchester Royal Infirmary for seven years, was heavily involved in the campaign.

“I was going around wards, getting people to sign petitions and being as visible and loud as I could. We had to send a clear message that it wasn’t acceptable for management to treat us like that any more.

“I don’t think the trust expected it to be as big as it is, and it’s been great for union recruitment because it demonstrates the power of collective action. The possibilities feel endless now.”

For Ms Guest, the success of the campaign is all due to the members.

“People come up to me and say ‘thank you’ for what’s been achieved, but I tell them: ‘you don’t need to thank me, it’s you’. Campaigns only work if the members are involved – that’s the only way you don’t lose momentum.

“I’m so proud of all the HCAs that were scared and concerned about putting themselves out there to challenge management. This is what they’ve achieved.”

Ms Guest is hopeful that the success in Manchester will inspire other health workers across the country to do the same. “The groundwork has been done, we’ve won. If we’re one of the largest trusts in the country and we’ve achieved it, it’s possible anywhere”.

The article Manchester NHS workers get back pay thanks to UNISON campaign first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Nursing professionals ‘more likely to experience domestic abuse’

Cavell Trust research shows importance of union's support for members as well as campaigning and negotiation on 'an issue for everyone' The article Nursing professionals ‘more likely to...