Unions could have gained more concessions from the government on pension reform had they not gone on strike, Peter Carter has told Nursing Times.
“The analogy I’ve used is that a loaded gun is often more of a threat than a fired gun. We could have still had that in reserve,” the Royal College of Nursing’s chief executive and general secretary said. “Who knows - with the threat of industrial action, as opposed to what happened, we might have got more.”
Mr Carter insisted the RCN’s decision not to strike alongside other unions on 30 November was “the right thing to do”. He said the main concessions in areas such as protection for those in the last 10 years of their careers were won before that day.
He declined to reveal to Nursing Times what he would say at today’s meeting of the RCN ruling council which will give the union’s official response to the government’s offer.
However, he added: “If I felt it was worth pushing on this and keep negotiations going I would. However, we could push as much as we’d like and we’re not going to get any further. That’s a difficult message for our members but I’ve got to be realistic and to be honest with them.”
Mr Carter said he did not believe striking was a “realistic option for RCN members”, although some may have favoured industrial action.
“To be really effective you have thousands of people walk off the job. That would render patient care unsafe which RCN members are not prepared to do.”
Mr Carter had advice for the government’s negotiating team. He accused chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander of disclosing details of negotiations to the media. “He should have kept his own counsel and not have been speaking in the way that he did. I think [Cabinet Office minister] Francis Maude has shown himself to be a very skilled negotiator but I think with Danny Alexander we saw some inexperience there.”