Ballots on the NHS pay offer opened today for members of the nursing health unions, in a vote which will determine whether or not months of industrial action will be bought to a close.
From today (28 March) until 14 April 2023, members of Unison, Unite, and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) who have Agenda for Change (AfC) contracts will be able to have their say on the government’s latest pay offer.
The offer, which was made earlier this month following a series of talks over several weeks, would give nurses a one-off payment for 2022-23 worth between £1,655 and £3,789 and a permanent 5% uplift from 2023-24.
In addition – prompting strong reactions for and against – the deal would also see a separate pay spine for nurses in the NHS: making nurses less dependent on adjustments to AfC in the future.
Commenting on the ballot, RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: ‘Ministers spent many months ignoring the voice of nursing and they forced us to take extremely difficult strike action before recognising the need to look again at pay in the NHS.
‘Weeks of negotiation resulted in a new offer and it’s only right that we ask our members to vote again and to give their view on the government’s proposal. Whatever the members decide, we will build on the last few months of campaigning for fair pay and recognition.’
Ms Cullen encouraged members to examine the offer ‘in full,’ pointing to the various aspects of the deal.
The pay offer has been the subject of vocal and increasingly organised opposition from members of the RCN and other health unions.
Petition for EGM on pay ‘fraudulent’
The RCN Council has been the recent target of a petition calling for an emergency general meeting (EGM) to discuss the pay offer, which the union has decried as ‘fraudulent’.
The petition, which came after the RCN’s governing council recommended the offer be accepted, said the goal was to ‘give the membership a mechanism to express their level of confidence in the decision-makers of the Royal College of Nursing’.
Under the RCN’s internal regulation, the signatures of 1,000 members are sufficient to trigger an EGM. Previous meetings have seen votes of no confidence passed against the members of the Council, and were highlighted in the Carr Report as creating a ‘paralysing’ fear of the membership.
An RCN spokesperson told Nursing in Practice they had ‘reason to believe hundreds of names were fraudulently added to the petition, including that of a deceased member’. They added: ‘This is now a significantly discredited and underhand petition.’
The RCN ‘will seek justice and clarity for members’, they said. ‘Attempts to reboot the petition with an even greater cloak of anonymity will be considered invalid too.’
Previous statements released by the RCN suggest that the union is working with the police in relation to the matter, however no further detail has been provided.
Yesterday, Christina McAnea, Unison general secretary, ‘Why it’s time to say YES to NHS pay’, in which she said that while the deal was ‘by no means perfect’ Unison was still ‘recommending that members accept the offer’.
However, Unite has stated that the union is making no recommendation on the pay offer, despite having previously written that: ‘The offer from government is not one that Unite can recommend to our members.’