Expert advice

A decent pay rise for nurses may take more than public support this time

With competing demands on public funds, nurses need a tough strategy going into pay negotiations

With competing demands on public funds, nurses need a tough strategy going into pay negotiations

Chancellor Rishi Sunak leaves Downing Street to deliver his summer statement Picture: Shutterstock

The summer mini budget by chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak has set the tone for government funding. It is a high-spending approach, aimed at saving jobs and kick-starting an economy scarred by COVID-19.

Political as well as economic decisions on what to prioritise

But money spent on big-ticket items means less left for other responsibilities.

Even before the announcement of a pay increase for public sector workers that excludes nurses, the Westminster government was giving out signals that a big pay rise for the profession may not be on the agenda. N urses werent included because their three-year pay deal

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With competing demands on public funds, nurses need a tough strategy going into pay negotiations

Chancellor Rishi Sunak leaves Downing Street to deliver his summer statement  Picture: Shutterstock

The summer ‘mini budget’ by chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak has set the tone for government funding. It is a high-spending approach, aimed at ‘saving jobs’ and kick-starting an economy scarred by COVID-19.

Political as well as economic decisions on what to prioritise

But money spent on big-ticket items means less left for other responsibilities.

Even before the announcement of a pay increase for public sector workers that excludes nurses, the Westminster government was giving out signals that a big pay rise for the profession may not be on the agenda. Nurses weren’t included because their three-year pay deal ends next year, though the RCN has called for talks to start soon.

With competing demands on public funds, and an economic recession looming, the government will be making political, as well as economic, decisions about what to prioritise.

‘The Thursday evening clapping is over, but public goodwill remains. This will be part of any calculations the government makes about where to prioritise its funds’

The new rhetoric voiced by prime minister Boris Johnson is about an interventionist approach to ‘rebuild’ the country. It borrows the title ‘new deal’ from the Roosevelt era in the United States.

President Franklin D Roosevelt’s New Deal focused on spending to get the US economy out of the Great Depression of the 1930s, through regulation, welfare support and a massive programme of public works, building roads and dams.

Our own prime minister is also talking about infrastructure investment and ‘build, build, build’.

Where does this leave nurses’ pay? The Thursday evening clapping is over, but public goodwill remains. This will be part of any calculations the government makes about where to prioritise its funds.

Nursing’s soft power may not be enough this time

One of Roosevelt's relations, Teddy, was also a US president. He is remembered for his approach to negotiations: ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick.’ So negotiate peacefully, but make sure you also have the power to back up your case.

What is nursing’s big stick? It has traditionally relied on soft power – a positive profile and public support – but this may not be enough to win through in this next cycle of pay determination.

Thoughts may turn to Northern Ireland, and the successful pay and safe staffing campaign at the end of 2019. A work to rule and planned strike action were part of the winning strategy.


 

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