Staff at a Kent health trust are being urged "to work a day for no pay" to save top managers' blushes over the trust's parlous finances.
Employees at the Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust are being asked to work a day for free, take a six-month career break or think about voluntary redundancy in a bid to balance the books before the end of the financial year in April.
Intimidating staff into working for free is no way to run a health service in one of the richest countries in the world, says BMA. Dr Jonathan Fielden, chairman of the BMA's Consultants Committee, commented: "There is clear evidence that many medical staff are already putting in significant unpaid work for the NHS. To put this kind of pressure on them to give up even more of their pay and holiday is unacceptable.
"We seem to have reached a point where NHS managers are so obsessed with balancing the books that they lose regard for the staff who are working round the clock for patients.
"It's even more galling that the trust seems to be doing this because it is determined to go ahead with a private finance initiative scheme. Such deals provide little long-term value, and going ahead with it is likely to make the trust's financial situation even worse in the future."
Amicus, whose members at the trust include the pathology and estates' departments, said its union reps were not consulted on the unilateral move by the new Human Resources director, Terry Coode.
Like the BMA, Amicus is angry that these proposals are intended to contribute to the trust's Private Finance Initiative, when it is well documented that PFI projects have been proven to be poor value for money, despite the millions spent on each one.
Amicus Head of Health, Kevin Coyne said: "We are staggered by the trust's action as it drives coach-and-horses through all the pay and consultation agreements in the book. Staff should not be pressured in this way to make sacrifices, even if it is not compulsory, especially for a PFI project."
"I hope that the Chief Executive Rose Gibb and her coterie of top executives have offered to lead by example."
"Our members at the trust are really insulted by this move as they already clock up a huge amount of unpaid overtime. This is something they do in the best traditions of the NHS – showing goodwill and commitment. Now they are thinking of invoicing the trust for their backlog of work."
"It is not helpful that this trust has returned to the Stone Age in terms of staff consultation and working in partnership. We don't agree that staff should be made to pay – quite literally – for the financial incompetence at the senior management level."