Attack on nurses' pay could prompt industrial action, warns RCN

RCN general secretary Peter Carter says going after unsocial hours pay would be a 'red line' for nurses

A government attack on unsocial hours pay would be a ‘red line’ for nurses that could result in industrial action, the RCN’s general secretary has warned.

The independent NHS Pay Review Body (RB) will report to the government in July with recommendations on seven-day working, which could see unsocial hours pay cut or even scrapped. Both NHS Employers and the Department of Health submitted evidence to the RB, including options to cut the hours which accrue unsocial hours pay.

In an interview with The Independent, Peter Carter said: ‘I would particularly give a really strong warning to the Secretary of State [for health, Jeremy Hunt]: any attacks on unsocial hours, weekend working payments, would be strongly resisted.

‘While we don’t want industrial action, I do feel that for nurses that would be a red line.’

The college has never gone on strike and opted not to join other unions in taking industrial action last winter after the government rejected the RB’s recommendation that all staff should receive a 1% cost of living pay rise in 2014/15. Instead only those at the top of their band were given the salary increase, with Mr Hunt arguing a rise for all was unaffordable.

Dr Carter said it had been ‘the right and ethically responsible thing to do’ to not go on strike last year.

He added: ‘But the membership is quite clear: unsocial hours, weekend working, Christmas Day and bank holidays – they get a very modest higher level of remuneration. Any attack on that and I do fear it would result in industrial action.’

Responding to Dr Carter’s comments, Mr Hunt said that no proposals whatsoever had been made about changing nurses’ terms and conditions.

He added: ‘The RCN should talk to their members and, rather than grandstanding like this, should come and talk to me.’

As Nursing Standard went to press, prime minister David Cameron was due to say in a speech that ‘we can become the first country in the world to deliver a truly seven-day NHS’.

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