"Last week we wrote to you with news of an important proposal from the NHS in England.
Despite already imposing a two year pay freeze, the NHS in England has now told the RCN and other NHS trade unions that there isn't sufficient money to pay increments for any NHS staff for up to two years. In exchange for a total increment freeze, the NHS are offering a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies for some staff.
Yesterday, RCN Council held a meeting to discuss the proposal. This email is to tell you about that discussion and to set out the next steps.
RCN Council examined the proposal in great detail. We need to be clear that Council will not accept or reject the proposal until you and every other RCN member has had the opportunity to share your views. However, Council wanted me to share with you their initial thoughts.
Council were unanimous in their opinion that the proposal does not offer any kind of guarantee for nursing staff and that, if implemented, it could signal the end of national terms and conditions through Agenda for Change which the RCN fought so hard for.
Although the proposal sets out a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies for those on bands 1-6, this will only apply in trusts that decide to opt-in and will involve local discussions and agreement.
RCN Council also believe that, in reality, the vast majority of nurses are not facing this threat. Instead, the real danger to patients and services comes from the tens of thousands of posts which are set to be cut through recruitment freezes and deleting vacant posts.
To give up any prospect of career progression in exchange for a measure that does not guarantee staffing levels, not to mention job security for all nursing staff, will understandably anger many of you. We also know that an increment freeze will have a real financial impact at a time when VAT is set to rise, the cost of living is going up and pension contributions are increasing.
So what happens next?
Council have asked me to start the process of discussing the proposals with our sister unions in the NHS. We also need more information from the NHS in several key areas:
What is the funding gap that decision makers are trying to bridge?
What other savings are planned, and how will they be achieved?
If NHS staff are expected to accept yet another restriction on their pay, what else is being done to save money?
How many jobs are at risk, and how many would be avoided through the guarantee?
How can Foundation Trusts, who have autonomy over their own pay agreements, guarantee no compulsory redundancies?
The guarantee only extends to staff between bands 1-6, what about the thousands at bands 7-9?
Let me be clear. Asking for this information does not mean that we are 'negotiating' on the proposal at this stage. It simply means that we need to have all the information in order to share it with you, our members, so you can have all the facts before you tell us your views. I wish to assure you that, ultimately, it will be you, our members, who accept or reject this offer.
We are your union, your voice for nursing and we will act in your best interests and those of your patients.
Over the next few weeks we will be sharing news with you about our consultation process, in the meantime, please do carry on telling us your views through your branches and boards, your Council members, through the Frontline First website, via the the RCN's Facebook page or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to all those who have shared your thoughts already. We wish to assure you that we are listening to each and every comment.
Dr Peter Carter
Chief Executive & General Secretary
P.S. You can find out more about the terms of these proposals by watching this video: http://frontlinefirst.rcn.org.uk/pay-proposal"
Friday, 17 December 2010
A Letter from the RCN
From Peter Carter: