FINANCE: North Tees and Hartlepool Foundation Trust has revealed plans to dismiss and re-hire 5,542 staff to scrap unsocial hours sick pay.

The trust wants staff to sign up to a new contract which will mean that they no longer receive enhanced sick pay for out-of-hours shifts.

North Tees and Hartlepool says sick pay enhancements cost it £1.05m between April 2010 and August this year. The cost of sickness absence, excluding agency fees, was £2.5m between April and August this year.

The trust has launched a challenge to staff to help it save £40m and the sick pay change is one element of its plans to find savings.

NHS Employers is currently negotiating with unions on a national modification to Agenda for Change and ending unsocial hours sick pay is one of the areas under discussion.

North Tees and Hartlepool is the latest trust to break with the Agenda for Change pay framework. Director of human resources Clare Curran said while the trust supported a national deal, it was “growing increasingly frustrated and we feel we cannot wait for a national resolution”.

She added: “It simply doesn’t make sense to pay staff unsocial hours enhancements when they haven’t worked unsocial hours.”

Royal College of Nursing regional director Glenn Turp said the trust was “bullying and intimidating the workforce”, adding: “This is an incredibly confrontational approach, particularly as national negotiations are still continuing. It is almost as if they are deliberately trying to undermine national negotiations.”

Christina McAnea, head of health at Unison, said the trust was seeking a short term fix.

“The employers in this case have described it as a consultation exercise, but this can hardly be the case when the only options for staff are to accept the changes or be sacked,” she added.

“We are calling on the North Tees and Hartlepool trust to think again and work with us to address their financial difficulties without penalising hard working staff and threatening patient safety.”