Members of the Royal College of Nursing will be asked to vote on whether the union should leave the International Council of Nurses later this month, following a long-running dispute over membership fees.
The RCN has been in discussion with the ICN, a federation of 130 nursing organisations, for the past six years about the level of fees it pays.
The membership fee is calculated according to the number of members in the organisations that it comprises. At present membership of the ICN costs the college over £500,000 a year.
In a statement, RCN chair of council Professor Kath McCourt said: “Fees have been rising because of exchange rate fluctuations and because the ICN calculates fees on the number of nurse members in the representative organisation of each country.
“This means our fees represent 16% of the overall ICN subscription income, which equates to more than half a million pounds annually. We believe this is unsustainable.”
College members will decide whether to authorise the RCN Council to withdraw from the ICN at an extraordinary general meeting scheduled to be held at this year’s RCN Congress. The conference will take place from 21-25 April in Liverpool.
Discussions with the ICN will conclude at a meeting of its Council of Representatives in May. There has been limited progress in agreeing a new fees model to date.
Professor McCourt added: “The RCN is fully committed to continuing to work with international partners on issues of common interest to nursing at home and abroad.”
But Tom Bolger, a former assistant general secretary of the RCN, told Nursing Times he would vote against the move.
He said: “There is no doubt that something needs to be done about the amount of money the RCN pays and the ICN needs to smarten its act up. But I am concerned that too much of the discussion has been behind closed doors.
“There should have been a consultation with the members during the last 18 months so that we can be making an informed decision about how the RCN goes about its international work instead of bouncing us into a decision at an EGM, which are for unexpected and urgent business.
“This has been in the ether for years. It won’t get my support.”
A college spokeswoman said: “The RCN has not been conducting discussions behind closed doors – we will be making all the information available to members and the decision will be theirs.
“The issue has also been discussed repeatedly in Council, where members have had the opportunity to hear from David Benton of the ICN.”
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