RCN Announces £35 million Industrial Action Fund and an entire nation standing behind them

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The RCN has created the UK’s largest union strike fund overnight.

Last night the union’s governing Council convened an emergency meeting, in which they voted unanimously to immediately set up a £35 million Industrial Action fund.

This came after the Government asked the NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB) to recommend a rise of just 1% for all NHS workers.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) called this 1% for all NHS workers “pitiful”, arguing that its members should get 12.5% instead.

The Department of Health and Social Care recommended the 1% pay rise to the independent panel that advises the government on NHS salaries.

It would cover nearly all hospital staff, but not GPs and dentists. The panel is due to make its own pay recommendations in early May, when ministers will make their final decision.

A government spokesperson said 1% was a “real-terms increase”, as the latest official inflation figure was 0.9%.

The RCN union, which represents 450,000 health care professionals, said an “emergency meeting” was held in the wake of the pay rise proposal, at which members of the RCN Council voted “unanimously” to set up the fund.

It said the next steps on whether to strike would be decided in conjunction with members and “further announcements will be made in the coming weeks”.

The Unite union also said it would not rule out asking members about potential strike action.

It is clear the government will not just be facing industrial action from NHS workers but the NHS will have the support of other unions willing to back the strike action and what’s more an entire grateful nation standing behind our NHS workers.

The health secretary has defended a proposed 1% pay increase for NHS workers in England this year, amid a backlash from unions.

The chairman of the healthcare company awarded over 5million is the former business partner of the Health and Social Care Secretary’s mother and stepfather link

Matt Hancock said the proposal was “what we think is affordable” given financial pressures caused by the Covid pandemic.

He added staff had been exempted from the wider freeze on public sector pay to reward their “incredible” work.

Speaking at Friday’s Downing Street briefing, Mr Hancock said the pay award reflected the “difficult financial circumstances the country is in”.

“One of the challenges we’ve faced as a country is in terms of the financial consequences of the pandemic,” he told reporters.

“We’ve proposed what we think is affordable to make sure in the NHS people do get a pay rise,” he said.

The health department recommended the 1% pay award to the independent panel that advises the government on NHS salaries. It would cover nearly all hospital staff, but not GPs and dentists.

In addition, some staff whose pay band is being changed will get more than a 1% increase as a result of a previously agreed three-year pay deal.

The government says newly-qualified nurses got a 12% pay rise over the course of that three-year agreement.

What do NHS workers in England earn?

  • The lowest minimum full-time salary – for newly employed drivers, housekeeping assistants, nursery assistants and domestic support workers – is £18,005 per year
  • The starting salary for most newly qualified nurses is £24,907
  • Staff in “high-cost areas”, such as London, get extra payments

How is pay decided?

Around half of all public-sector workers, including NHS staff, police officers and teachers, have their salaries negotiated by independent pay-review bodies.

These pay bodies – made up of individuals not directly attached to the relevant department but with experience in economics and employee relations – work with government departments, unions and other groups to come up with a recommendation on how pay should change each year.

This recommendation is non-binding.

In November, the government announced that public-sector workers would have their pay frozen in 2021-22.

The Largest strike fund ever setup overnight

In setting up this fund, the RCN has created the UK’s largest union strike fund overnight.

The most experienced front-line nurses are £6144 per year worse off now than ten years ago due to wages failing to keep up with the rate of inflation (RPI).

Health unions have been calling upon the Government to give NHS workers an immediate restorative rise of between 12.5% and 15% after over a decade of real-terms pay cuts.

Dave Dawes, Chair of Council, told NursingNotes; “Our members and our elected officials are all rightfully angry that the government has ignored all our lobbying efforts and campaigning and is recommending a pathetic 1% pay rise.

“The government is sending us a clear message about their intentions on pay. The RCN is sending a clear message that we feel that industrial action is becoming much more likely.

“Last night the RCN created the biggest union industrial action fund the UK has ever seen and this is just the first step.”

Health Minister and former nurse Nadine Dorries claimed the government “absolutely appreciates” the work of NHS staff, but a 1% pay rise is “what we can afford”. She also says “many in the private sector have lost their jobs or on reduced pay or reduced hours.”

United we stand

The Unite union also said it would not rule out asking members about potential strike action.

Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, the union’s national officer for its health sector wing, told ITV News that Unite would “look at all possible options including industrial action”.

He added: “The time for clapping has stopped, now is the time to pay up.”

The government is facing a furious backlash from nurses, doctors, health care unions, politicians and the public for proposing the pay rise, which will in real-terms will amount to a pay cut due to inflation.

Ministers defended the proposal, saying 1% was the most the government could afford at a time when the economy was under “huge pressure” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Downing Street defended the pay rise, saying it’s what is “affordable”.

Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “We recognise the impact Covid has had on the NHS and we want to honour this.

“But the pandemic has real consequences and we have done all that we can to protect jobs and save livelihoods.

This is insulting’

Emily Huntingford
image captionEmily Huntingford said staff needed reward for the risks they have run

Emily Huntingford, an intensive care nurse at a London hospital, said she had been “completely shocked” when she heard about the 1% pay rise.

“The first thing that came into my mind was that this is insulting,” she added. “It shows a complete disregard for the work NHS workers have done this year.

“This whole year has taken a lot of personal sacrifice for all of us. We’ve put ourselves at risk.”

But Emma, a nurse who works in Nottingham, said that “even though 1% isn’t much, it’s still a pay rise”.

She told BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat that all public sector workers and key workers – not just NHS staff – should get the same.

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