Exclusive pay offer to nurses could 'undermine entire pay system'

SoR warns English government that industrial action 'more likely' if offer is made

Published: 24 February 2023 Trade Union & IR

The SoR has published a statement criticising the English Government's offer of exclusive pay talks to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

Dean Rogers, SoR Director of Industrial Strategy & Member Relations, said that while the offer of talks had prompted the RCN to suspend scheduled action, other unions including Unison, Unite, GMB, and the CSP, had not yet been invited to any talks and they would continue planning for action.

"The SoR was surprised to hear that the English Government had offered exclusive pay talks to the RCN, in an attempt to prevent their members taking further industrial action next week.

"Whilst we understand why any union taking industrial action would want to talk to the employer, it is remarkable that Government have only made this offer to one union when all of the AfC unions, including the SoR, remain in a dispute over pay and reward. All negotiations to date have been through the Staff Council representing all 13 AfC unions. This should continue to be the case.

"In accepting the talks offer, the RCN will know that it cannot negotiate exclusively on behalf of all unions. They will be equally aware there is no route to accepting any offer that would be exclusively for their members.

Years of under investment

"Any proposals to emerge from these talks will therefore have to both come back to the whole Staff Council for consideration and cover all NHS staff covered by AfC terms. Anything else will fundamentally undermine the entire pay system, which is already straining after years of under investment.

"It would be hugely surprising if the English Government did make any kind of exclusive offer to the RCN as all parties must be aware this would only make industrial action by other professionals over the coming months more likely. If any such offer did emerge then the SoR would be amongst those who would consult members in England about industrial action in response.

"With members in Wales and Scotland considering offers that have arisen from genuine, grown up partnership across all unions, this development highlights further the lack of maturity in the English Government’s approach to industrial relationships and its fundamental lack of any grasp of what partnership working means, or could deliver.

"We urge them again to reconsider their approach and seek a more mature and constructive approach to solving the NHS workforce crisis.”