Former RCN council chair urges caution on industrial action over pay

Now is not the time to call a ballot over pay, the outgoing RCN council chair has told frustrated members.
Michael Brown

Now is not the time to call a ballot over pay, the outgoing RCN council chair has told frustrated members.

  • Open letter by three nurses demanded RCN be more 'militant'
  • Autumn budget pledged funds for pay rises
  • NHS Pay Review Body expected to make recommendations in spring
Michael Brown
Michael Brown says RCN council discussed the open letter in a meeting
last month. Picture: John Houlihan

Former RCN council chair Michael Brown made the point in response to three nurses who wrote an open letter demanding the college 'be militant' and consider industrial action over pay issues.

The nurses – who include Danielle Tiplady who started a petition on pay that sparked a political debate in Westminster Hall last year – are concerned about 'conjured up positivity’ in the RCN statement released after the autumn budget in November.

Chancellor Philip Hammond pledged in the budget to fund pay rises for nurses, depending on the NHS Pay Review Body (RB) recommendations and talks with health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Nursing staff only profession named by chancellor in budget

The RCN welcomed this commitment saying the chancellor had clearly listened to its Scrap the Cap campaign calling for better nurse pay.

But despondent members called on the RCN leadership 'to hold an extraordinary executive meeting to discuss industrial action as the only response to this budget'.

In his written response, Mr Brown, whose term as RCN council chair ended in December, says the council discussed the letter during a meeting on 6 December.

He said although the council shared members' frustrations, it had never expected the budget to include details of a pay rise.

‘But the fact that nursing staff were the only profession to be named by the chancellor was significant,' he writes.

‘RCN council is clear that this is not the time to ballot members for industrial action. The RB should be allowed to do its work and we must wait until it reports in the spring.’

Make sure RCN membership details are all in order

However, he added that members should work to make sure all membership details are correct in case of a future ballot.

‘We know this is a long, hard struggle, but we do believe the government commitments first to scrap the pay cap, and then to fund a pay increase, demonstrate that we are making headway.’

Before Christmas, the RCN submitted evidence to the RB, stating that nurses were feeling angry and demoralised following seven years of wage freezes and pay restraint.

The RCN submission states that a band 5 nurse is now earning around £2,500 a year less than they would have been had their wages kept pace with inflation.

The RB is expected to make recommendations in the spring, affecting pay for the 2018-19 period.

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