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Recruitment, retention, showing us we’re valued: what would a fair pay rise mean for you?

Nurses and unions will accept nothing less than a better deal following the COVID-19 crisis

Nurses and unions will accept nothing less than a better deal following the COVID-19 crisis

Picture: Getty

The year 2020, perhaps more than any other, has reaffirmed why were all in nursing and it certainly isnt for the pay, as the old joke goes.

But this year could become a tipping point. Nursing professionals no longer accept the idea that our choice of career and a decent standard of living cannot go hand in hand.

COVID-19: the crisis has put nursing in the spotlight

Pay and conditions are always at the top of the RCNs list of priorities, but there are certain moments when big societal or political shifts make this debate more pertinent. This year was always going to be the year the RCN ramped up its campaigning

Nurses and unions will accept nothing less than a better deal following the COVID-19 crisis

Picture: Getty

The year 2020, perhaps more than any other, has reaffirmed why we’re all in nursing – ‘and it certainly isn’t for the pay’, as the old joke goes.

But this year could become a tipping point. Nursing professionals no longer accept the idea that our choice of career and a decent standard of living cannot go hand in hand.

COVID-19: the crisis has put nursing in the spotlight

Pay and conditions are always at the top of the RCN’s list of priorities, but there are certain moments when big societal or political shifts make this debate more pertinent. This year was always going to be the year the RCN ramped up its campaigning on pay, but our arguments have been strengthened as we look to the next pay settlement.

Our profession has been catapulted into the spotlight by events beyond our control that no one could have foreseen and no one wanted.

‘Now, whether to the public or politicians, we can set out our clear expectation that if you clapped us, then value us and pay us properly’

Nursing staff are always the first people to say healthcare is a team effort but, the world over, we have found ourselves in the eye of a storm and proved our worth as capable, skilled and compassionate leaders.

Our members continue to be the front line of this country’s COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment work – a debt that can never fully be repaid. For some, the cost was far too dear.

The work of nursing staff has drawn out unimaginable levels of public support. And now, whether to the public or politicians, we can set out our clear expectation that if you clapped us, then value us and pay us properly.

The public supports nurses’ demands for fair pay

The issue is already bringing people to the streets.

Large numbers of protests – safely carried out in these unusual times – were held in early August. Fair pay for nursing staff has wide public support and the governments of the UK should listen and take action immediately. The people of this country feel strongly and the time to act is now.

Politicians have some choices to make – will they listen to the request of all NHS unions, including the RCN, to kick off immediate discussions on nurses’ pay or will they insult you further by telling you to wait to next year?

And let’s get something straight. Politicians can come on the radio and use selective figures to tell us repeatedly that our pay has been rising, but we know what has happened.

Pay for nursing staff was suppressed for years by those choosing to follow a path of austerity. We are worse off now than we were ten years ago – that’s the inescapable truth we will remind them of, loudly.

Feeling valued or leaving the nursing profession?

Earlier this summer, record numbers of RCN members told us about their current working conditions and what they expect ‘after’ COVID-19. When you do the work we do, you get huge satisfaction from knowing you improved someone’s day, care experience or even life. No other reward feels quite like that.

But, as a profession, we simply don’t feel valued by politicians or senior managers. And our current salaries are driving more people to leave this career.

Our future needs to be much brighter in so many ways and there is no magic solution. But pay, as an issue, cuts to the heart of it. Paying us what we’re worth would retain nurses, bring in a new generation and prove to every nursing professional that they are valued and respected.

At the moment, the UK government is keeping its cards close to its chest. Sadly, only it can set the timetable and the method for agreeing your next pay award. But we’ll have the opportunity to make your case, whether in direct negotiations or by submitting evidence to the Pay Review Body.

The last set of pay negotiations two years ago weren’t without controversy. That deal was indeed a break with years of pay freezes and insultingly poor pay increases. Some members did okay, others – in particular the ones at top increment – did not. Enough has been said about that old ground and we need to look forward, strengthening our commitment to working with fellow members.

A member-led pay campaign for fair pay

We have determined our pay strategy by asking every member what a fair rise looks like. Now we’re working with other unions to repeat that call for early discussions and to present a strong case for why healthcare staff deserve a better deal.

When the RCN launches its campaign for a fair pay award in September, it will be loud, clear and led by members.

Every RCN member should get involved and tell their own story about what a pay rise would mean to them – how they feel about their work, themselves and how it would help their family or personal situation. I am asking each one of you to be active, engaged and involved.

Let us show that nursing’s raw deal has run its course and our future is in our hands.


Graham Revie

Graham Revie is chair of the RCN trade union committee


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