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NHS nurse pay: health unions’ ‘deep disappointment’ at RCN stance

College accused of undermining unions’ joint negotiating position for 2022-23 pay rise, after it breaks ranks in issuing lone call for nurses’ award
Three people pulling in one direction and one person running off in another as unions disagree on NHS pay campaign

College accused of undermining unions’ joint negotiating position for 2022-23 pay rise, after it breaks ranks in issuing lone call for nurses’ pay award

Health unions have accused the RCN of breaching an agreement to present a united front on NHS pay, after the college made a lone call for a 12.5% pay rise for nurses.

Some 13 unions, including Unison, the Royal College of Midwives and GMB, issued a joint statement condemning the RCN’s move , which they say means NHS staff are no longer speaking with one voice.

In January, health unions including the RCN submitted their collective case to the NHS Pay Review Body (RB), calling for an inflation-proof pay rise in 2022-23.

    College accused of undermining unions’ joint negotiating position for 2022-23 pay rise, after it breaks ranks in issuing lone call for nurses’ pay award

    Illustration shows three people pulling in one direction and one person running off in another
    Picture: iStock

    Health unions have accused the RCN of breaching an agreement to present a united front on NHS pay, after the college made a lone call for a 12.5% pay rise for nurses.

    Some 13 unions, including Unison, the Royal College of Midwives and GMB, issued a joint statement condemning the RCN’s move, which they say means NHS staff are no longer speaking with one voice.

    In January, health unions including the RCN submitted their collective case to the NHS Pay Review Body (RB), calling for an inflation-proof pay rise in 2022-23.

    Collective case for maximum impact

    The unions say they had agreed a united position was essential for maximum impact, and judged it best not to put a figure on their demands, given ‘months of government silence’ on negotiations. That decision to submit joint evidence was confirmed in an official vote.

    But on Monday, the RCN acted alone in calling for a 12.5% pay rise for nurses – despite, say the other unions – having been strong advocates for a collective position.

    What government wants from the 2022-23 NHS pay review

    Last month, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in England advised the NHS Pay Review Body that staff should have a maximum 3% pay rise in 2022-23, claiming anything more would compromise the NHS’s ability to tackle its treatment backlog.

    The DHSC said the pandemic ‘has shown once more that the NHS is nothing without its exceptional staff’. But it said that a pay offer also needed to be proportionate and consider inflationary pressures on the economy.

    RCN’s ‘risky’ negotiating strategy

    The unions said the RCN’s move was deeply disappointing.

    ‘Given current economic and political volatility, unions considered it risky to set a rate when forecasts differ wildly about how high living costs will rise throughout the whole pay year,’ their statement reads.

    ‘The pandemic has amplified the value and mutual respect health workers have for their colleagues and led to recognition that our members are all part of the same team. So unions were keen to have a joint position to enable the strong campaigning necessary to achieve a decent outcome.’

    They added the RCN’s decision to pull away will prevent it from being part of a joint pay campaign, concluding: ‘It is only through working together in unity that we will achieve the best for our members.’

    The RCN declined to comment, pointing to its original statement calling for a pay rise in 2022-23.


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