RCN Members To Consider New Pay Offer

The Royal College of Nursing is giving its members in England until mid-September to decide if they want to accept the government’s final pay deal. Some 95% of nurses had voted to go ahead with a ballot on industrial action over the original pay award.

They were particularly unhappy that a 2.5% pay rise would be given in two stages, when colleagues elsewhere in the UK will get it all at once. The ballot has been put on hold since ministers returned with a new offer. This include a £38 one-off payment this year for low-paid staff (who earn between £14,453 and £19,730), a 50% contribution towards the costs of annual professional fees until 2010 and the promise of future talks before the next pay round.

The government has not budged on staging the 2.5% pay rise, however, which is what angered nurses because it equates to only 1.9% over the year. A Department of Health spokesman said: “We acknowledge the strong feelings of nurses about the need for fair pay and have recognised this in making an improved pay offer.

“However, we are committed to the overall public sector pay policy to remain vigilant against the threats of inflation. It is only by prudent management of the economy that we have been able to make unprecedented investment in the NHS including the recruitment of 80,000 new nurses since 1997.”

The RCN said it had taken a deliberate view neither to recommend or reject the offer. Josie Irwin, head of employment relations at the RCN, said: “It is up to our members to indicated whether the offer is acceptable.” She said the RCN had been back-and-forth on an almost daily basis negotiating with ministers over the pay deal. The latest deal, made on 2 August, is the government’s final offer, she said.

Mike Travis, chair of the RCN’s membership, representation and diversity committee, said: “The ballot result shows just how fed up nurses were with the original pay award. What we now need to do is go back to members and gauge their response to this improved offer before Council makes its final decision whether to accept the award in September.”

RCN members have until the close of 14 September to give feedback via email or directly to regional representatives and Council members. The Council hopes to make a decision on 15 September. The Royal College of Midwives and Unison, the UK’s largest health union, are both consulting their members on the pay offer. Unison is balloting its 450,000 members with a deadline of 13 September. The union has advised members that the offer is the “best” it is likely to achieve through negotiations.