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RCN members to begin voting on NHS pay deal proposals today

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The Royal College of Nursing’s 200,000 nursing staff in England will begin voting today on whether to accept last month’s pay deal put forward by unions, the NHS and government.

RCN members should be able to vote on the proposals from 10:30am via the college’s website. The deal, revealed by negotiators on 21 March, would mean at least a 6.5% increase for most staff over three years, plus incremental hikes for some, if subsequently accepted by unions.

But there has been disquiet in some areas that the pay rise is not high enough, given the recent years of pay freezes and then the 1% pay rise cap, and the likely level of inflation.

In addition, suggestions of much bigger rises for some have also been criticised as misleading, with critics saying extra money gained via band restructuring should be viewed as separate to the basic pay increase.

However, the RCN highlighted that, if it was accepted, the deal would give NHS staff the largest pay rise in 10 years – reiterating that was worth between 6.5% and 29% over three years.

It cited as an example a registered nurse who was three years into their career and currently earning around £24,500, saying they would be over £6,000 a year better off by 2020-21 – a rise of 25%.

“The deal is not a silver bullet to cure all ills nor can it rewrite history. But rejecting it would set back the fight for higher wages”

Janet Davies

The first higher salary payments would be made in July and backdated to the start of the current financial year, said the college.

It added that via restructuring of the Agenda for Change contract, which also forms part of the deal, staff would reach the top of their band more quickly and starting salaries would also be increased.

It is “hoped the changes will allow the NHS to recruit and retain more nurses”, stated the college. It also noted that NHS staff could see how they would personally fair using an web-based ‘pay calculator’ set up to accompany the consultation.

Its online poll will run for six weeks – closing on Tuesday 5 June – and will be open to all members of the RCN working for NHS hospital and community services in England. 

The negotiations, which concluded in March, came after the chancellor Philip Hammond and health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt scrapped the 1% cap on public sector pay rises.

However, following a government leak, the RCN and other unions were forced to resist changes to annual leave entitlements and the special payments made to staff who work unsocial hours.

The RCN also reiterated that the Treasury had committed to fully fund the deal with £4.2bn extra for the NHS. As a result, trusts and other NHS employers will not be asked to find the funds from existing resources, safeguarding frontline services.

Janet Davies, RCN chief executive and general secretary, encouraged her union’s members to accept the deal, though acknowledging that it was not perfect.

“The deal is not a silver bullet to cure all ills nor can it rewrite history,” she said. “But rejecting it would set back the fight for higher wages by 18 months or longer and leave people worse off.”

Highlighting the pay protests in 2017, she said: “The serious amount of new money the government put on the table is a credit to the nursing staff who turned up the heat on ministers last year.

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Janet Davies

“Their strong campaigning meant negotiators could fend off all unpalatable demands to cut holidays or pay for unsocial hours,” said Ms Davies.

She added: “When there are 40,000 unfilled nurse jobs in England alone, voting yes to the best rise in a decade will go some way to making nursing an attractive career again.”

Last week, Unison also launched a consultation on the NHS pay proposals during its annual health conference in Brighton, with members in England given until 5 June to air their views.

Like the RCN, Unison has urged members to back the deal. Its conference included a debate on the deal, with many Unison members passionately speaking both in favour and against the proposals.

To help readers decide, Nursing Times has published a series of opinion pieces from commentators who are either in favour or against accepting the deal.

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