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Nurse pay: unions slam government offer of 4% as ‘grave misstep’

RCN members in England to be balloted on industrial action after below-inflation pay award

RCN members in England to be balloted on industrial action after below-inflation pay award

Nurses are to get a below-inflation pay rise of around 4% in what unions condemned as a ‘grave misstep’ , which could spark industrial action.

The RCN said the government had misjudged the mood of nursing staff with its poor offer, with many in the profession already struggling with rising living costs and are now facing another real terms pay cut.

Within hours of the pay offer, the college announced a ballot of members in England on industrial action with its leaders saying 'nursing deserves better'.

The move

RCN members in England to be balloted on industrial action after below-inflation pay award

NHS workers and supporters protested outside University College Hospital in July 2021 demanding a fair pay rise for staff
NHS workers and supporters protested outside University College Hospital in July 2021 demanding a fair pay rise for staff. Picture: Alamy

Nurses are to get a below-inflation pay rise of around 4% in what unions condemned as a ‘grave misstep’ , which could spark industrial action.

The RCN said the government had misjudged the mood of nursing staff with its poor offer, with many in the profession already struggling with rising living costs and are now facing another real terms pay cut.

Within hours of the pay offer, the college announced a ballot of members in England on industrial action with its leaders saying 'nursing deserves better'.

The move comes amid rising anger among nurses and the wider public sector over pay and staffing issues – and growing public support for action, including a strike.

What does the government offer mean for nurses?

Under the pay award for 2022-23:

  • Nurses on Agenda for Change bands 6 and 7 will receive a 4% increase.
  • Newly qualified nurses on band 5 will get a pay rise of 5.5%, with earnings increasing from £25,655 last year to £27,055. All pay rises will be backdated to April 2022.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) did not clarify what would happen to nurses on higher bands. But the DHSC said all nursing staff would receive at least £1,400 – with the average nurses’ basic pay increasing from £35,600 last year to around £37,000 – prompting nurses on Twitter to say that would equate to just 2.6% for an experienced matron.

Ballot on industrial action

The RCN, which is calling for a pay rise of 5% above inflation, slammed the offer as a ‘grave misstep’ and said the government's figures on nurse pay were misleading.

An emergency meeting of its ruling council agreed members in England will be balloted on industrial action.

In an email to members, RCN general secretary Pat Cullen and council chair Carol Popplestone said the fight for fair pay must continue with a ballot.

'This pay award does not help you with the rising cost of living – inflation is rising much higher. It will do nothing to help to recruit or retain more nursing staff where you work. It does not recognise the skill and responsibility of the job you do. Sadly, it will not keep patients safe,' they wrote.

Inflation-driven increases ‘would have worse impact on pay packets’

Announcing the pay offer, health and social care secretary Steve Barclay claimed that offering high pay increases driven by inflation ‘would have a worse impact on pay packets in the long run’.

He said: ‘This government hugely values and appreciates the dedication and contribution of NHS staff which is why we will give over one million NHS workers a pay rise of £1,400 this year, on top of the 3% they received last year when pay rises were temporarily paused in the wider public sector.’

Mr Barclay added that the government had asked the NHS pay review body for its recommendations and accepted them in full.

The offer, which is more than three months overdue, will see the lowest paid workers, such as porters and cleaners given a 9.3% increase in their basic pay, while doctors and dentists will also receive a 4.5% pay rise.

Who will fund the pay award?

NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer expressed concern about the lack of additional funding for the pay award.

‘NHS employers have only been allocated enough money to award staff a 3% rise, so unless the extra increase is funded by the Treasury, very worryingly, this will have to be drawn from existing budgets and will mean an estimated unplanned £1.8 billion shortfall.’


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