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RCN special meeting set for members in wake of pay deal comms fiasco

It has also commissioned an external review into what went wrong

Caroline White

Friday, 03 August 2018

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is to hold an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) in late September, prompted by members’ fury and confusion over what they could expect to receive in year one of the NHS pay deal for England.

The ensuing uproar has resulted in an online petition, expressing no confidence in the RCN leadership, on the grounds that members have been misled. And the Royal College of Midwives has also felt compelled to clarify the terms of the deal to reassure its own members.

13 out of 14 unions agreed to the pay deal, which was agreed in June, and worth at least 6.5% staggered over three years.

But the RCN mistakenly told nurses in England that they would all get a 3% increase in the first year, backdated to April.

“Some members will get much more as the deal comes with changes to the NHS pay structure, which reduce the number of pay points in each band and remove the current overlap between bands,” said the RCN announcement.

But NHS Employers, which agreed the pay deal with the unions, said the agreement had never promised a 3% rise in the first year.

When disgruntled nurses started voicing their anger about the contents of their July pay packet, RCN chief executive Janet Davies formally apologised, saying that it had come to her attention that the deal “was not as straightforward as we said.”

“For that, I want to offer you a sincere personal apology. I’m as dismayed and angry as you are,” she continued. “In good faith, we told all members that they would receive a 3% uplift this summer. I now find that this is not the case for everyone. I can assure you that I am demanding answers for you.”

Two days later, the RCN issued another statement to clarify the terms of the deal, which will mean that all nurses will get a pay uplift of 3% on their current pay by next March.

But those receiving increment payments won’t get that money for the whole year – only from their increment date. Before that, only 1.5% of the total award will be backdated to the start of April, the RCN explained.

The reason given for the mistake was that: “The deal is incredibly complex due to a reform of the pay structure being carried out at the same time. It was therefore difficult to give details of what it meant to every one of you individually.”

As well as scheduling an EGM, the RCN has commissioned an external review into the governance and process surrounding its understanding and communication of the NHS pay deal for England.

The terms of reference for the review will be finalised this week and the first phase of its work will be finished in time for September’s EGM.

In a blog posted yesterday, Jon Skewes, pay negotiator for the Royal College of Midwives, said: “Please don’t let an apology to members of the RCN by their chief executive affect your view of the agreement. That apology to RCN members related to a mistake in RCN, not RCM, communications to members about their pay. They had said in one recent communication to activists that all staff would get the same increase at the same time. This was clearly wrong and misleading. They have now corrected their communications and apologised.”

He continued: “To repeat, the RCM has in its consultation not misinformed members and neither have other unions. One union rejected the deal, but it has been approved (13 to one) by all the other unions following consultation with members and is now incorporated in amended and updated Agenda for Change contracts of employment.”

He added: “It’s also still the best pay agreement in the public sector. It doesn’t pay you back for eight years of nil or 1% increases forced on us by government. But it is a turning point that will improve our NHS pay structure and your pay.”

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