Royal College of Nursing rejects Government’s pay offer - and will strike for two days this month

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The Royal College of Nursing has voted to reject the Government’s pay offer although Unison has backed the proposed pay rise.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has rejected the Government’s pay offer and has vowed to embark on strike for two days later this month. The RCN members’ union narrowly voted against the deal, by 54% to 46%, which would have given them a 5% pay rise this year and a cash payment for last year.

The decision comes after Unison, which represents around half a million health workers, accepted a 5% rise for this year plus one-off bonuses, leaving the major health unions divided.  Ministers had hoped a deal with the RCN and other health unions offering the same proposals could see off the threat of further industrial action from major staff groups.

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A new 48-hour strike will be held with no derogations - exemptions from strike action - from 8pm on April 30 to 8pm on May 2. This covers the first May Bank Holiday.

RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen said: “What has been offered to date is simply not enough. The government needs to increase what has already been offered and we will be highly critical of any move to reduce it.

“Until there is a significantly improved offer, we are forced back to the picket line. Meetings alone are not sufficient to prevent strike action and I will require an improved offer as soon as possible. In February, you opened negotiations directly with me and I urge you to do the same now.  After a historic vote to strike, our members expect a historic pay award.”

The union had previously urged members to accept the proposals, which involved a one-off bonus of between £1,655 and £3,800 for the financial year 2022/23. But the calls from Pat Cullen, the general secretary, were met by a vigorous “Vote Reject” campaign.

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RCN had said it would accept a pay rise of around 10% to end its ongoing dispute with the government. The union had initially demanded an increase of up to 19% to cover soaring inflation and falls in real term wages over the past decade.

But Cullen has said she would be willing to "meet the government halfway", with the figure said to be around 10%. Members of the RCN voted in favour of industrial action last November - the first national strike by the union in its 106-year history.

They said low pay was "pushing nursing staff out of the profession and putting patient care at risk", and called for the double-figure wage rise, along with improvements to working conditions.

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