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Nurses vote for multi-year deal

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Nurses will see this year’s 2.75% pay rise in their salary slips next month after the UK’s two largest health unions accepted the government’s proposed multi-year offer.

The results of a Unison ballot, announced at the end of last week, show nearly 65% of members returning forms voted to accept the deal. And results of an RCN consultation, also revealed last week, show almost 93% of members in favour.

The deal is expected to be ratified, despite opposition from smaller health unions, at a meeting of staff side and NHS Employers on 15 June, in time for the July pay round.

As well as this year’s increase, the deal provides for an extra 2.4% in 2009–2010 and 2.25% in 2010–2011, with greater gains for newly qualified nurses as they progress along their pay band (NT News, 15 April, p8).

Josie Irwin, RCN head of employment relations, said: ‘Our members have recognised the reality of where we are and that it is the best deal we could have negotiated.’

However, Unison and the RCN reassured members that if inflation continued to spiral, they would call on the government to reconsider the three-year deal before the end of the year.

A re-opener clause in the deal provides for the NHS Pay Review Body to gather economic evidence and, if the economy worsens, the unions can ask it to put pressure on ministers to review the deal.

Mike Jackson, Unison senior national officer, said: ‘We will be knocking on the government’s door by the end of the year if conditions trigger the re-opener clause.’

The level inflation has to reach before the clause is triggered has been left open-ended in the wording of the pay agreement.

But Janet Maiden, senior staff nurse at University College Hospital London NHS Foundation Trust and Unison branch chairperson, said the award was not good enough.

‘How will we attract nurses to the profession if they are not going to get a good enough salary to get a mortgage and a house and a life?’ she said.

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