Bath MP Don Foster backs NHS staff in 'cartel' battle
Bath MP Don Foster has backed health workers campaigning against a so-called NHS pay cartel in the west.
The city's Royal United Hospital is one of 19 health trusts which have paid £10,000 each to sign up to the South West Pay Terms and Conditions consortium, which will look at pay, overtime, holidays, incentives and working hours.
The consortium, dubbed a cartel by unions, has been set up to look at solutions to the financial problems facing the NHS.
Ideas talked about include increasing working hours, decreasing holidays and restricting sickness pay.
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There are also plans to introduce regional pay, where NHS staff in different regions are paid different wages.
MPs in the areas affected are being targeted by unions opposed to the plans, who say the changes would have a devastating impact on health workers.
Mr Foster said: "My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I are committed to equality and public services.
"I have made it clear that I oppose the idea of regional pay and welcomed the Deputy Prime Minister's dismissal of regional public pay sector plans."
A protest petition fighting the pay cuts has attracted more than 17,000 signatures, and the move has been criticised by Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians.
Unison South West regional manager Tanya Palmer said: "The employers involved in the consortium are undermining staff morale, stable industrial relations, staff recruitment and ultimately patient care.
"Many trusts in the South West are already struggling to recruit trained nurses.
"Why should a nurse working for the NHS in Taunton earn less than a nurse in Birmingham?
"The consequences for the region will be disastrous, and will result in skilled health workers being driven out of the region, taking money out of the local economy and deepening the healthcare postcode lottery."
Managers at the RUH have held meetings for some of the hospital's 4,800 staff and have stressed that any potential changes to terms and conditions would involve "very detailed discussion with staff representatives".