Report of Group Secretaries Meeting 18.9.02

Delegates to the 2002 Group Secretaries meeting in London

The President, Bob McArtney, opened the meeting by welcoming the Group Secretaries.

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Rejuvenation of dormant Groups
Martin Pratt, District Member for Mercia and Communication Officer, presented his experiences of trying to revive a dormant Group and the various means of doing so.

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GHP within Amicus
Barry Jones, Section General Secretary, provided an overview of the changes since MSF and AEEU merged to become Amicus. The new union has around 1.1 million members and is the largest union in the private sector. It also has the largest parliamentary group of any union. The structures are quite separate at the moment, except that a Joint National Executive Committee (NEC) has been set up. The existing MSF and AEEU NECs will probably cease to exist once the new rule book is adopted. The new central office will be in Covent Garden and is expected to be operational early in 2003. The new rule book is being designed and will be put to the National Conference in 2003. Two basic principles have emerged -

1. the union will have a greater industrial focus than before and
2. the union will have a greater workforce focus than before.

The new NEC will have 4 seats out of the 20-25 reserved for healthcare scientists, but they are not reserved for any professional group at the moment. Pharmacists are included within the healthcare scientists grouping.

The NHS sector will look different to the current MSF structure due to two main drivers -

1. the development of the new union and
2. Agenda for Change - the likely development of a pay review process and the strategy for healthcare scientists.

The next meeting of the MSF NHS National Advisory Committee (NAC) will be in November.

The current structure has the NHS NAC at the top and then a series of Occupational Advisory Committees, of which Guild Council is one, feeding in to it. What is likely to be proposed is the development of a different type of OAC - probably a pharmacy OAC, incorporating pharmacists and other pharmacy staff members. The two other likely OACs are for Engineering and for Life Sciences. Guild Council will still exist, but not as an OAC in the Amicus definition of one. These OACs will each prepare their own Pay Review Body submission and submit it to the new Healthcare Scientists NAC. There is a slight problem here in that the HCS NAC and NHS NAC will have a major overlap in the membership they represent.

Nothing is cut and dried as yet. The strengths and weaknesses of having a single pharmacy OAC have yet to be worked out and a proper consultation with other pharmacy staff groups will be required.

GHP Groups have to be active in increasing membership. There are currently around 2800 members and the GHP is one of the few growing sections of the union. There are about 700 Pharmacy Technician members, but a problem as there is no existing structure to support democratic involvement in an OAC.

The merger to create Amicus took place on 1st January 2002 and should be completed in 2004. There will need to be a ballot for a new political fund next year. For legal reasons, the two existing political funds cannot be merged. Subscriptions will remain frozen at current levels until they are reviewed in 2004.

Problems of inactivity within Guild groups are not by any means unusual. The Amicus branch structure also has some serious problems. However, one advantage that GHP groups have is that most branches are general branches covering members in all sectors, with a limited number of NHS branches. However, it is important to remember that the branches have the funds. Centrally, funds are being gathered to fund a researcher/organiser for AfC.

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Future of the Group Delegates Meeting
There was a discussion on the history of the GDM and the downward spiral in the number of motions and delegates. The next GDM will be held in February at Whitehall College. There was discussion about publicising the motions on the website and having an electronic message board for comments.

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Agenda For Change (AfC)
Colin Adkins, Amicus researcher, spoke to the meeting on AfC and noted that the Job Evaluation Working Party was meeting this morning. Things are now moving from the technical work to the negotiating stage. He explained that the various deadlines that had been set and missed were as a result of ensuring the scheme was done better rather than sooner. There will be about 15 early implementers, but they might not include pay until agreement is reached. Some unions have protracted processes for agreement. The new system should be fair and transparent. However, it needs resources, otherwise it will merely be a fairer redistribution of the misery!

Amicus are adopting a strategy of accepting gains and trying to address or ameliorate negative effects. The Job Evaluation Scheme is the key to the place ion the new system and the factor plans have been equal pay proofed. A number of pharmacy jobs have been evaluated. It has been difficult for Amicus because of the number of different professions they represent. A profile will be prepared from the evaluation. This will allow Trusts to compare posts against the profile and determine their place in the structure. This matching will be done on a partnership basis and it is important that the correct profile is matched to each job. Amicus will list the profiles for staff side to ensure this happens. Everyone wants to minimise appeals.

Terms and conditions are also part of equal pay and need to be harmonised and this could be a high cost item. If someone's hours are reduced their hourly rate of pay increases and vice versa. Amicus are committed to equal pay and believe the proposal will be 37.5 hours per week, but will be arguing that all groups already on fewer hours should stay on fewer hours. There will be progressive harmonisation after that. Current Amicus policy is to aim for a 35 hour week.

Management proposals for unsocial hours payments

1. did not reflect the diversity of current situations and
2. only rewarded a narrow definition and then not generously.

So the proposals could not be agreed. Amicus suggested that there should be payment for

1. the commitment to work and
2. a premium for actually doing the work.

The Department of Health want a cost neutral implementation of this part. Amicus are saying that they ay get agreement by majority, but they will lose services by people not working and also staff retiring to avoid any detriment to their pension. The consensus amongst staff side is that if no headway is made, they will collapse this strand and fail to agree.

One possibly useful provision is for a recruitment and retention supplement in those areas where there are problems. How these will be applied has not yet been determined. Such payments will have to be separate from the basic salary and be transparent. The criteria for these will have to be universal and be universally applied. What will be very useful is an independent survey of vacancies and recruitment and retention problems.

Most other allowances will disappear and be incorporated into the evaluation.
The key area for future development is the Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF). This is a competency framework to ensure that progression is a mixture of automatic progression and competency assessment gateways. CPD and training are keys to unlocking these gateways.

If implemented fairly and honestly by the trusts, it will be better than the current situation. If not, considerable pressure will need to be brought to bear to do so.

There was some discussion over the "leaks" which appeared in the Nursing Times and had salary scales linked to the structure. It was noted that pharmacy would have significant problems if the figures attached were at all accurate and that if the Department of Health wishes to offer a pharmacy service in the NHS, the rates would need to be higher.

There is a possibility of different levels of protection for different parts of the package. Currently, there are still 67 outstanding issues to be agreed.

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Guild Council
Group Secretaries were told about the new way that Council would be working. This would take the form of task groups rather than the current subcommittees.

An update to the GHP Strategy was also given.

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Meeting with Chief Pharmacist, Department of Health 17/9/02
The President, Section General Secretary, Professional Secretary and Vice-President met with Jim Smith. They took along the discussion document on a new grading structure. They were told not to expect a DoH response to "A Spoonful of Sugar" as the DoH never responds to Audit Commission documents. The DoH was looking at preparing a new version of the performance management framework for trusts and some of the recommendations of "A Spoonful of Sugar" will be incorporated. This new version should be out by 2003 and in use by 2004. Apparently pharmacists are included in the Healthcare Scientists HR Strategy. They talked about the professional leadership and consultant roles and the DoH supported this as the way to go.

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Council Members
It was noted that Gerry Wilson had resigned as District Member for Wales. There was also an indication that interest had been expressed in representing London North.

It was noted that Peter Cooke had been appointed as the Director of External Relations of EAHP at the recent General Assembly.

Colin Rodden
19 September 2002

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