NHS pay deal confusion: your questions answered

The 12 biggest questions on the 'misleading' pay deal answered by the RCN
Pay deal

The 12 biggest questions on the 'misleading pay deal' answered by the RCN

  • Half of nursing staff won't receive the expected pay rise
  • RCN emergency general meeting will be held on 28 September
  • Answers from independent inquiry will be presented at the meeting 
  • Members in Scotland and Wales assured mistakes won't be repeated

RCN general secretary Janet Davies

On 20 August RCN general secretary Janet Davies announced she will be stepping down from her position with the college at the end of month. 

The resignation followed Ms Davies apology to members for the college’s communication of the pay deal, and a pledge for an independent investigation into the matter.

In June this year RCN members on Agenda for Change contracts in England voted to accept a pay deal which would see their first significant rise in a decade.

During the RCN’s campaign for members to accept the deal, the college said all members would receive an immediate 3% increase in pay backdated to April.

However, some members found their July pay packets lighter than they were expecting, with a pay rise of only 1.5%.

This led members to contact the college directly or vent their discontent via social media.

Call for leaders to stand down

Additionally, more than 1,000 RCN members signed a petition calling for an emergency general meeting (EGM). The petition stated the signatories had ‘no confidence’ in the college’s leadership and called for them to stand down.

Earlier this month, Nursing Standard asked the RCN a dozen questions on the what went wrong and what happens next.

Q: How did the RCN mislead its members over pay?

RCN: 'The RCN believed that, in the first year of the pay, all members with an Agenda for Change contract in England would receive a 3% increase backdated to April. It has come to light this is only the case for those at the top of their pay band. For those receiving increments, they will get a 1.5% increase now, backdated to April, but they will receive a further increase on their increment date.'

Q: Why has this led to an apology from Janet Davies?

RCN: ‘Janet Davies knew that members would feel let down, and sent an immediate apology followed by further information as the picture became clearer.’

Q: What should the RCN have said?

RCN: ‘By the end of March next year, everyone’s salary will have increased by a minimum of 3% compared to a year earlier. However, for those of you receiving increment payments, you will not receive that money for the whole year – only from your increment date. Before that, only 1.5% of your total award will be backdated to the start of April. The deal is incredibly complex due to a reform of the pay structure being carried out at the same time. It was therefore difficult to give details of what it meant to every one of you individually.’

Q: How many RCN members are affected by this communications issue?

RCN: ‘Half of nursing staff will be at the top of their pay bands and will receive their 3% increase immediately – the other half are within the pay bands and will get more on their increment date.’

[The RCN stated in June that 216,000 members were eligible to vote in the pay deal. Half of this number is 108,000.]

Q: What happens next – when is the EGM?

RCN: ‘RCN council has announced that an EGM will take place in late September, with the date and venue announced as soon as it is confirmed.’

[The RCN has announced the meeting will be held on 28 September at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in Birmingham from 11am.]

Q: Has the RCN ever had an EGM before?

RCN: ‘The RCN last held an EGM in 2007 over property and finance issues.’

[The RCN has now clarified that the latest EGM was held in 2013]

Q: What do those behind the EGM hope to achieve from the vote of no confidence?

RCN: ‘Members concerned will be able to explain the reasons for the EGM they called.’

[The petition which led to the EGM called for the RCN leadership to stand down. The RCN is led by a 17-member council.]

Q: How many people have resigned from the RCN as a result of the apology from Janet Davies?

RCN: ‘The college has commissioned an independent external review of the situation but does not disclose figures on its membership.’

Q: Will everyone get to the same salary level at the end of the three years as they were led to believe?

RCN: ‘The deal has not changed – the deal voted for is the deal being received. Half of our members get 6.5% over three years with others getting significantly more. By the end of March next year, everyone's salary will have increased by a minimum of 3% compared to a year earlier.’

Q: How does the controversy surrounding the pay deal in England affect the pay negotiations in other UK nations?

RCN: ‘The RCN is ensuring that members' understanding of the pay deals in Scotland and Wales are complete and that a similar mistake is not made. We are assured that members in each country have been given correct information. Due to the absence of government in Northern Ireland, no deal is being discussed there at present and the RCN is continuing to push for one.’  

[RCN members in Scotland have now voted to accept the pay deal on 17 August]

Q: What will the independent inquiry seek to achieve – and will its findings be made public?

RCN: ‘The external review into the governance and process surrounding the RCN’s understanding and its communication of the 2018 NHS pay deal will be carried out by the Audit Compliance Team at Electoral Reform Services Limited.’ 

Q: Will those findings be known before the EGM?

RCN: ‘Yes, the first phase of the work will be completed in time to inform the EGM in September.’

Q: What will the independent inquiry be looking at?

[This question was sent to Electoral Reform Services (ERS)]

ERS: ‘As detailed on the RCN website the RCN has asked the ERS Audit Team to carry out the review.

We have commenced our work, and this involves interviews with members, officers and employees and the examination of the relevant documents and communications, to and from, the members.

Any information relating to the review for members will be appropriately shared by the RCN with their members in due course.’

This story was edited on August 21 to reflect updates to Ms Davies' position within the RCN, the outcome of pay negotiations in the other countries, more details on the indepndent inquiry and the timing of the EGM. 

Who are the principal players in the fallout from the pay deal?

Janet Davies:

Outgoing general secretary of RCN since 2015.

In post throughout Scrap the Cap campaign to lift 1% cap on pay rises and subsequent negotiation of the pay deal.

Promised members in her blog on 6 March 2017 ‘We will get the pay award that you deserve’.

In June 2017 oversaw the launch of RCN’s Summer of Protest, culminating in Parliament Square rally in September billed as biggest ever.

Called government’s 6.5% pay offer, ‘a step in the right direction’. Vowed ‘the bigger leap to truly fair pay still needs to be taken’.

Assured members who voted against the deal their arguments ‘had been heard by the college’.

Took the unprecedented step of offering a ‘sincere personal apology’ to members in July, saying it had come to her attention the pay deal was ‘not as straightforward as we said’.

Josie Irwin:

RCN associate director of employment relations.

Appointed as the college’s chief negotiator for the pay deal with the government.

Wrote in December 2017 that RCN priorities for reforming Agenda for Change pay structure were ‘removing overlaps between pay bands’, ‘making it quicker to get to the top of bands’ and ‘protecting unsocial hours payments’.

Updated members on negotiations in January 2018. Claimed no deal could mean ‘the return of the cap or perhaps worse’.

Recommended 6.5% pay deal to RCN members in blog on 6 April, claiming it was ‘the most that could be achieved’.

Told fringe meeting of RCN Congress in May that members’ unwillingness to take industrial action meant negotiators felt they could not pressure the government harder.

Wrote in a blog post on the RCN website on 19 July - since deleted –  that ‘it was anticipated that all staff would receive 3% in July’.

Danielle Tiplady:

Chair of RCN Inner North East London branch.

Co-started the petition demanding an emergency general meeting as well as expressing ‘no confidence’ in the RCN leadership.

Told Nursing Standard: ‘We must get our house in order if we want to be the voice of nursing and the best way to do this is in an open, transparent and democratic manner where all members can take part and ask questions of those who represent them.’

Came to prominence after founding the Bursary or Bust campaign in 2015 while studying adult nursing at King’s College London.

Helped organise a series of marches to protest against the government replacing NHS bursary with loans in 2017.

Started petition on removing pay cap which gained 104,000 signatures and triggered parliamentary debate on January 2017.

Campaigned against government’s pay offer and voted to reject the deal in the RCN’s ballot.

Maria Trewern

Chair of RCN Council since January 2018. Qualified as a nurse in 1977.

Pledged to make sure the RCN ‘delivers what it should do for members, without whom there would be no College’.

Wrote in her blog on the RCN website on 2 August that council had met and confirmed the emergency general meeting will take place in late September.

Confirmed the first phase of the external review of RCN’s ‘understanding and communication of the pay deal’ will be completed by Electoral Reform Services Limited.


EGM’s in RCN’s history: How unusual is an EGM?

In total there have been 10 EGMs in the RCN’s history

Purpose and outcome of each meeting: 

1920 (4 Nov):  The purpose of the meeting was to propose changes to the Articles of Association with regards to qualifications for membership, annual subscription of members and the establishment of a notice period and the right to state and defend case for any members removed from the Register of the College. Resolution carried with acclamation.

1920 (20 Nov): Confirmatory meeting – the two resolutions relating to changes of articles of association proposed at 4 Nov meeting were accepted. Carried unanimously.

1926 (11 Dec): The purpose of the meeting was to propose three resolutions, all relating to the College’s petition for a Royal Charter – all resolutions carried unanimously.

1960 (23 Jun): The purpose of the meeting was to consider a change in the qualifications for admission to College membership, including the admission of men to the College, and to consider alterations to the bye-laws relating to the election and seats of Council members from English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish sections of the College.  All resolutions carried unanimously.

1962 (28 Jun): The purpose of the meeting was to consider a major revision to the Royal Charter and bye-laws. Firstly, to produce a shorter and clearer document; secondly, the inclusion of amendments recommended by the Council’s Working Party on the Royal Charter; thirdly, amendments were put forward to give effect to the amalgamation of the Royal College of Nursing and the National Council of Nurses. 37 Resolutions in total, all carried unanimously.

1979 (26 Feb): The purpose of the meeting was to consider an amendment to Rule 12 of the Rules of the RCN – power to call industrial action. The resolution proposed that strike action should not be initiated or authorised unless the policy of the College, which is opposed to strike action by nurses, is changed in a General Meeting (the resolution would need to be passed by a two-thirds majority). Also, that a resolution passed by a two-thirds majority would be needed to withdraw the power of the Council to initiate or authorise industrial action by members where circumstances warrant it. The resolution was not carried. Votes for: 2636 Votes against: 5824.

2007 EGM: The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the RCN’s financial position, the staff pension scheme deficit and how this would be addressed, and the RCN’s London headquarters at20 Cavendish Square. The resolutions called on Council not to proceed with the sale of Cavendish Square, to commit that any decision to change RCN headquarters must be supported by a ballot of the membership, and to present to the membership at the 2007 AGM its plans to contain expenditure and resolve the pensions deficit. All three resolutions were carried.

2013 EGM: The purpose of the meeting was to discuss and decide whether to continue the RCN’s membership of the International Council of Nurses (ICN). The outcome was that members voted to authorise Council to withdraw the RCN from membership of the ICN. 

Related material

Statement from RCN Council chair Maria Trewern

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