Industrial strife over pensions reform is set to further frustrate trusts’ attempts to introduce changes to staff terms and conditions.

HSJ understands trusts across the country are privately discussing making the requirements of Agenda for Change more affordable and some are close to a collective deal among themselves.

However, HSJ also understands trusts are now unwilling to press their case, with unions in a militant mood following the government’s latest pension proposals.

Unions reacted with outrage last week when chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander pre-empted talks on pension changes by announcing public sector employees would have to contribute an extra 3.2 per cent on average.

The age at which workers draw pensions – which would be based on career average as opposed to final salaries – would increase to 66 by 2020.

Unison, which is meeting the government on Monday, said it would ballot its 1.3 million workers for industrial action unless ministers gave ground. Other public sector unions have voted to strike next Thursday.

The national unrest is another setback for trusts wanting to re-examine pay bills after the failed attempt by NHS Employers earlier this year to launch a collective agreement to withhold AfC pay increments.

An acute trust chief executive told HSJ: “With possible industrial action, I don’t think anybody will be in a rush to accelerate discussions on pay and conditions.”

Most would wait and see if the situation calmed down, the chief said, despite the fact that many were “finding it very difficult to make the QIPP [quality, innovation, productivity and prevention] figures”.

An NHS workforce expert said possible industrial action was a blow to the many trusts “scratching their head about what to do this year [on finance]”.