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RCN members not fully informed about pay deal, report concludes

A report into the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) handling of the pay deal has concluded that members were not able to make able to make an informed judgement on the deal.

The report claims that the RCN presented ‘factually incorrect’ information, and accuses the College of presenting the deal in a way that was ‘biased towards its acceptance’, with alternative options not explored.

Among the incorrect information presented to members, the report highlights:

  • The 3% uplift would only apply to those at the top of their band, and not all members, as some communications had stated.
  • A briefing that went to reps before RCN Congress, which states that there would be a ‘3% increase, plus an increase from incremental reform’. This is despite the 3% uplift including the rise through increments.
  • Emails sent to individual members who had written seeking clarification, which continued to give incorrect information on a 3% uplift plus an increment increase.

The report, conducted by Electoral Reform Services (ERS), states: ‘The majority of information conveyed to members about the implementation of the deal after Congress was inaccurate (probably a result of an attempt to simplify the message).

‘ERS believes that failure to inform decision makers of information that compared the current system with the proposed deal in a clear succinct manner, hindered informed balanced judgement as it failed to provide clear context to the headline gains, including the 6.5% and 29% figures used in during the campaign.’

As well as the wider membership, the report also concludes that the RCN Council and governance committees, and the chief executive and executive team, were also not fully informed about the details of the pay deal.

In particular, ERS highlight a meeting between the lead negotiator for the pay deal and the RCN executive team, including former chief executive Janet Davies, where Ms Davies had limited the lead negotiator to one hour to present the technical details of the deal. This included various tables and graphs detailing the pay deal structure.

Ms Davies also prohibited the use of papers during executive meetings to ‘lead to more discussion’, but that this rule being applied to a meeting on the pay deal meant that the lead negotiator was only able to present the pay deal using slides.

The report also claims that there is ‘evidence of closing down scrutiny and questioning’ of the pay deal by Ms Davies.

In an interview with one member of the executive team, the report states: ‘At least one executive team member attested to the limitations of scrutinising facts and figures when they are being presented on a slide display as opposed to documents in front of them, and this adopted approach may have made it harder to seek out anomalies.’

The RCN Council were also accused of presenting the deal in a way that was ‘biased towards its acceptance’, and failing to ‘highlight information that was lacking or yet to be clarified’.

In response to the report, the RCN Council said: ‘The report concludes that the executive team, Council, Trade Union Committee, and the membership were not fully informed about the details and impacts of the deal in a way that enabled them to make an informed balanced judgement.

‘This conclusion does not absolve the College of fault, and indicates that the processes around the pay deal and its communication were not sufficiently robust.

‘RCN Council agrees with the findings of the review, and has committed to addressing the recommendations in full. Work has already commenced to ensure that the College is stronger for our members.’