Furious nurses in England claim they were “misled” over the new NHS pay deal having discovered they will get hundreds of pounds less in their wage packets than they were expecting.
The uproar comes amid widespread confusion over how new pay rises will be passed on to staff prompting a group of Royal College of Nursing members to call for an emergency general meeting to discuss how the deal was communicated.
“There has been no explanation of why there has been a complete change to what members voted for”
Nurses had been expecting to get a 3% rise in their July wage packets and say this was what they were told by unions. However, it has now become clear this is not the case.
New information put out by the RCN at the tail end of last week explains that just half of staff – those at the top of their pay band – will get the 3% immediately while the rest will get less.
Those not at the top of their pay band will get on average 1.5% until their incremental date when they will get a further increase – but this could be many months down the line.
The RCN has also now confirmed that backdated pay covering April to July – and any incremental increase in that period – would be paid in August.
The announcement made by Josie Irwin, RCN associate director of employment relations and chief negotiator, suggested that the split had not been anticipated by the college. In the online statement, Ms Irwin said: “It was anticipated that all staff would receive the 3% in July.”
“People have been receiving their payslips and it is like “What the Hell?”
However, she went on to say nurses were used to the separation between April 1 pay uplifts, with the main increase coming later based on their date of appointment.
Many nurses have taken to social media to express their anger and disappointment, after opening their July pay packet with some describing the increase they had received as “a joke”.
“The calculator made out I would get an approximate increase of £1,300,” said one nurse on Twitter. “What increase on my salary did I really get? About £350.”
According to NHS Employers, the terms of the pay deal were set out in the framework agreement agreed by most healthcare unions and nothing has changed since then.
“The details of the pay deal are exactly how Agenda for Change has always worked, with an annual increase in April and an incremental increase on the incremental date,” said an NHS Employers spokesman.
However, the document does not explicitly state that this is how the much-anticipated pay rise would work in practice simply that: “The effective date for pay awards will remain as 1 April in the relevant year.”
“Both sets of figures we have used – pay journeys and the pay scales – were included in the framework agreement”
The body also stated that information on the NHS Employers and joint trade union websites made it clear the exact timing of pay increases was dependent on an individual’s pay increment date.
But it seems the message did not get through, with nurses saying they were led to believe that all would get the full 3% backdated rise from the outset and voted for the pay deal on that basis.
Community mental health nurse Geoff Earl said he was “disgusted” with the situation and particularly with the way it had been communicated. “Clearly someone has messed up because the RCN comms team – as did other unions – put out that everybody would be getting a 3% rise,” he said.
“But if you’re getting your 1.5% now the next one might not come until next March, which means you are not getting 3% over that year, you are just getting 3% for a month,” said Mr Earl.
He said the first most RCN members heard about this “complete change” was through the statement on its website. “The most disturbing thing is not just that they have mucked up but the way they have communicated it,” he said.
“There was a clear expectation members would get 3% in the first year all at once,” he said. “But there has been no explanation of why there has been a complete change to what members voted for.”
Intensive care nurse Danielle Tiplady was also among those who said she felt let down by the RCN and others.
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“I don’t know if they knew about it or not but if they didn’t know about it that is even more concerning in my opinion,” she said. “People have been receiving their payslips and it is like “What the Hell?”
Ms Tiplady said she had voted against the pay deal and felt most sorry for those who had voted in favour in good faith.
“I feel bad for my colleagues because I voted against it but the people who voted it for it genuinely thought they were going to be getting a couple of grand up front to get them out of trouble,” she said. “That isn’t the case and it’s not fair.”
Some of the confusion appears to stem from the fact nurses were encouraged to plug their details into various “pay calculators” to see what the pay deal would mean for them.
For example, the pay calculator on the NHSpay.org website, which was used by many, lumped together the annual uplift with pay step increments.
While others, such as NHS Employers’ “pay journey tool”, allowed nurses to see the annual uplift and exactly when the rest of the rise would kick in for them.
In a bid to clarify matters, NHS Employers and unions rushed out a new resource at the end of last week, which explains the difference between various pay calculators.
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Meanwhile, a group of RCN members today launched a petition, in which they claimed they had been “misled” by their union and called for leaders to stand down.
“As members we feel misled. It has come to our attention after the vote closed, that those not at the top of their band will get on average 1.5% until their incremental date,” stated the petition.
“Our livelihoods and the future of patient care are at stake and we deserve answers from those who represent us,” said the document, which is being circulated via a Google form.
The petition also calls for a vote of no confidence in RCN leadership. “We the undersigned also have no confidence in the current leadership of the Royal College of Nursing and call for them to stand down,” it stated.
Under the RCN constitution, the group will need to gather 1,000 signatures for an emergency meeting to take place.
In May, at RCN congress, the union’s leadership said it would look into earlier concerns about the way the NHS pay deal has been communicated to its members, following claims that the union has “misrepresented” the offer.
In response to the latest developments this week, the RCN has said it will consider staging an emergency meeting. “The RCN’s elected council will meet next week and will decide on this issue,” said a college spokeswoman.
Nurses have also questioned why NHS Employers did not act to rectify any potential misunderstanding in the way the pay deal was communicated by unions to staff.
“The position of NHS Employers has always been that staff will be assimilated and paid on the new pay structure in July, and backpay will be paid from August, subject to local payroll arrangements,” said chief executive Danny Mortimer.
“Both sets of figures we have used – pay journeys and the pay scales – were included in the framework agreement, the jointly agreed document which trade union members were consulted on and voted overwhelmingly in favour of,” he said.
Meanwhile, RCN chief executive and general secretary Janet Davies has tonight witten to members with a personal apology.