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Senior negotiator to swap unions following RCN pay deal row

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The chief negotiator at the Royal College of Nursing has announced her resignation following criticism over her role in the college’s bungled pay deal campaign.

Josie Irwin was singled out in an independent review into the RCN’s handling and communication of the deal as having a “conflict of interest” and sending misleading information to members.

Ms Irwin will leave the RCN in early November after 26 years at the college to become national women’s officer at another healthcare union, Unison.

Dame Donna Kinnair, acting chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said it had been a “pleasure” working with Ms Irwin and thanked her for her service to the college. 

The pay deal row was ignited in July when some members received much less in their pay packets than they were expecting, leading to accusations that the RCN had mispresented the offer.

The controversy led to the resignations of both chief executive and general secretary, Janet Davies, and director of member relations, Chris Cox, who was Ms Irwin’s boss.

The majority of the RCN council will also be stepping down at the end of this year after losing a vote of no confidence by members during an extraordinary general meeting.

The college commissioned the Electoral Reform Service (ERS) to carry out an independent review into the way it managed the pay deal. 

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Josie irwin

The report was critical of Ms Irwin, who played a key role in both negotiating the deal and presenting it to RCN decision makers, staff and members.

It determined that Ms Irwin was “biased in favour of achieving” of the deal due to warnings from the government that it would be offer the table if the RCN did not recommend it to members.

The ERS, therefore, found that Ms Irwin had a “conflict of interest” in her role of presenting and aiding communication of the deal.

The report noted that Ms Irwin had provided responses to members’ queries about the deal that appeared to “either inaccurate or misleading”.

Ms Irwin also sparked controversy during the pay campaign when she called members “deluded” and “unrealistic” if they supported an aggressive “male” style rejection of the deal without credible alternatives within an opinion piece for a journal published by the RCN.

It is unknown at this stage if Ms Irwin’s departure is connected to the pay deal fall-out.

Nursing Times has approached Ms Irwin for comment.

  • 2 Comments

Readers' comments (2)

  • Should she not have been dismissed for her conduct regarding this?

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  • So she's going to another union to do the same job. Why? She's proven to be useless. she needs retraining, perhaps as a hospital greeter. And how dare she characterise a rational refusal to accept the deal as "male," as if that's a bad thing. It was males who started the trade union movement and the push for universal enfranchisement. If those males had been as passive as she seems to want nurses to be, we would still be little better than serfs. Sometimes we need to fight for our best interests, not supinely take what we are given. I hope she is hounded out of Unison.

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