Nurses will press for a pay rise above inflation in forthcoming NHS wage negotiations, the head of the Royal College of Nursing has said, as hundreds gathered at a rally in London on Wednesday to protest against the current 1% limit on nursing wage rises.
The “scrap the cap” event, planned as part of a “summer of protest” over pay by the college, followed reports in national newspapers that the government was getting ready to announce that it was going to end the long-running and deeply unpopular 1% cap on NHS pay rises.
“As well as inflation you would need some catch up because nurses are so far behind”
RCN chief executive and general secretary Janet Davies told Nursing Times that she wanted to see a “catch up” rise in wages for nurses in 2018, because salaries had fallen so far behind the cost of living increases in recent years.
However, she noted that the government must first end its 1% cap so the NHS pay review body, which assesses salaries every year, can act independently and make a “true” recommendation about nursing pay based on evidence from unions and employers.
Ms Davies specifically highlighted the key role that the NHS pay review body should play in the process by collecting evidence from the government, employers and unions, in order to make impartal recommendations on health service pay for staff on Agenda for Change.
“We have a pay review body, that’s where the evidence goes. We will put evidence in of what’s been lost, what needs to be made up,” she said at the event in Westminster that was thought to have attracted up to 2,000 nurses.
“As well as inflation you would need some catch up because nurses are so far behind. The fact we have an independent pay review body is meant to mean we don’t have all the industrial wrangling between us,” said Ms Davies.
“But that has not been independent now for many years – they’ve only been able to look at the evidence within that 1% cap that the government has put on them,” she said.
“[The NHS pay review body] has not been independent now for many years – they’ve only been able to look at the evidence within that 1% cap”
However, when asked whether she believed the recent reports that the government planned to write to the pay review body with plans to end the cap, Ms Davies said it was not clear if it would happen.
“We have been promised lots of things in the health service for many years and lots of that has not come to fruition. We will believe it when we see it,” she said.
Ms Davies reiterated to Nursing Times that if the government showed “no sign” in the autumn budget of the cap being lifted, then the RCN would launch a ballot to see if nurses were prepared to go on strike – action the union has never taken before.
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Earlier this year, the RCN surveyed members on whether they would be prepared to go on strike should a formal ballot be held by the college in the future.
While the majority said they would support a strike, the number taking part – 19% of members – was below the government’s new requirement for a 40% turnout in order for industrial action to go ahead.
When asked whether she was confident at least 40% of RCN members would take part in formal ballot over strike action, Ms Davies said she did not have any concerns at this stage.
“He’s the secretary of state for health, he can see we haven’t got enough nurses and that nurses are leaving”
“We don’t know and we are a long way off that yet. We would have to find out from our members,” she said.
In reference to the 19% turnout in the previous survey, she said: “The poll wasn’t a ballot. That was self-selecting and people had to go on the website to take part.”
However, she added that a recent meeting she had with health secretary Jeremy Hunt about nurse pay had left her under the impression he was “sympathetic” to the profession’s arguments.
“He’s the secretary of state for health, he can see we haven’t got enough nurses and that nurses are leaving,” she said.
“The one thing we need to do is keep the people we’ve got – and one of the things we can do is value them and pay them a proper salary by removing that cap, which is causing damage to the health service. He can see that,” said Ms Davies.
“The one thing we need to do is keep the people we’ve got…and pay them a proper salary by removing that cap”
She said previous arguments that health minsters had made about keeping nurse wages down to increase the number of nursing posts in the NHS had been “totally disproved”.
“Nurses are leaving, so it’s not worked,” she said. “We’ve got fewer nurses now and we’ve got more people leaving the profession than joining.”
But she acknowledged the final decision over pay would be made by the Treasury and said the aim of Wednesday’s rally was to make chancellor Philip Hammond “hear the profession’s message”.
She urged nurses to “keep the pressure on” the government to lift the pay cap, and to respond to a future formal RCN strike ballot, if it was required.
“It’s been a period of austerity for far too long and we’re asking for the government to listen to the message from nurses, take a good hard look at what is happening to people leaving the profession and think about the value nurses provide to keep the health of our population in a good state,” she said.
RCN chief calls for above inflation pay rise at rally to end 1% cap
Source: Nicola Merrifield
scrap the cap rally london
Source: Nicola Merrifield
rcn rally london
Source: Nicola Merrifield