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Nurses on both sides of NHS pay offer report bullying and taunts

Nursing activists complain of being called ‘deluded’ for wanting to reject the NHS pay offer, while some in favour of the offer have been bullied on social media, RCN congress hears


Michael Coram: 'We have the power, we must not be afraid to use it.’
Picture: John Houlihan

Nursing activists have been labelled ‘deluded’ for wanting to reject the NHS pay offer, while some in favour of the offer have been bullied on social media, RCN congress heard on Sunday.

During an emergency debate at congress in Belfast several nurses said they had been branded ‘ungrateful’ for wanting to reject the offer. Others suggested the profession should be ‘strike ready’.

There were also calls for clearer communication between the college and members.

‘Cyber bullying’

Nurse Jason Warriner said those who wanted to accept the offer had been subjected to ‘cyber bullying’ on social media.

General secretary Janet Davies later told reporters she had not suggested anyone was deluded.

She said: ‘We want everybody to feel unified, but we won’t necessarily unify everybody’s ideas and positions and it is healthy to have different positions and to have healthy debate.’

‘Maybe there were some criticisms over communication, but that’s what we are here for, to hear that and try to get it right.’

Fighting for best offer

Proposing a debate on the Scrap the Cap campaign and the pay offer, former college chair Michael Brown said the RCN’s negotiation team would have fought for the best offer, but he questioned whether the offer should have been put to members with a recommendation to accept it.

London-based nurse Danielle Tiplady said: ‘When it first came out that we were getting a 29% pay rise, 50% of this country thought, “I’m about to buy a yacht.” I expect this from the government, but I don’t expect this from my trade union.

‘Increments are now included as pay rises and all last year we argued that they were not. Good luck arguing with any future government that they are not, because it won’t wash again.’

Out in the cold

She added: ‘Many of us feel unwelcome because we disagree, left out in the cold by an organisation that is supposed to represent us all, not just those who agree.

‘We have been called deluded, unrealistic and made to feel we are ungrateful. No, we are not, this is democracy and we can all vote however we wish.’

Her comments were echoed by Geoff Earl, who said the way the offer had been presented to members was a disgrace.

Michael Coram, who signed up as a ‘pay champion’ during the Scrap the Cap campaign, said: ‘We must be strike ready otherwise the government will continue to see us as a weak and submissive workforce.

‘Globally, nurses take action safely. We have the power, we must not be afraid to use it.’

Divisive

Newly qualified nurse Andy Riley said the pay offer was divisive, with nurses at the top of their bands set to lose out.

He added: ‘I think this is a weak government, divided over Brexit, and this is the time we should challenge them.’

Arguing in favour of the offer, RCN UK stewards committee chair Graham Revie said the RCN had three aims: to secure a pay rise, reform the agenda for change and protect terms and conditions.

He said 6.5% was being offered as a pay rise, reform of agenda for change was being offered and a lot of terms and conditions had been protected.

Right direction

RCN inner south east London branch chair Sam Newman said: ‘The pay deal isn’t perfect, and I don’t believe anyone – including the RCN leadership – has suggested it is.

‘But I think it is a significant step in the right direction... it lifts our lowest-paid colleagues out of poverty and pays them a living wage, and those at the top of bands will receive bigger increases than anybody else in the public sector.'

The debate was followed by a keynote speech from Ms Davies, who said the college had successfully deterred the government from making changes with regard to unsocial hours, sick leave and holiday pay in return for a pay rise.


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