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On employment: Wait and see

7 March, 2018

On employment: Wait and see

The RCM evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB) has already been submitted on behalf of our members across the UK.

Along with all NHS unions, we have put forward a claim for a pay rise at the RPI rate of inflation (3.9%), plus £800 for all staff. This would go some way to meeting the rise in the cost of living and making good on the real-terms loss of earnings while successive chancellors have held down public sector wages over the last seven years. I will present this evidence on 6 March to the NHSPRB.

The evidence contains compelling research by the RCM on the views of members who have suffered so much at a time when more demand and shortages have caused real pressure. HoMs have also given us their invaluable overview. We also have the latest research on agency, bank and overtime working. All of this paints a picture for the independent NHSPRB that shows the need to invest in the pay of midwives and support workers. 

This route to fair pay has been suppressed by government public sector pay policy for many years, and that has resulted in big losses in the value of NHS pay. That cannot continue, and our evidence shows why at a time when it looks like that policy may, finally, be opening up.

But there may be another route to achieve more. Exploratory talks on the Agenda for Change pay structure and contract reform have been taking place, involving employers and the Department of Health as well as trade unions including the RCM. Trade unions are keeping the staff sides in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland involved.

If we can test the chancellor’s statement in the budget that the NHS might be funded for higher pay for contract reform and productivity then we should explore the potential of this. The NHS already outstrips the private sector in productivity. We have had a long-term aim of cutting the time it takes from starting in a pay band to getting to the top. We want to get rid of overlaps between pay bands. If we could achieve funded pay increases year on year and acceptable reform, then such a package could be put to members in a consultation. It may not be possible at all: but we will know by the time you read this column.

If it is not possible to negotiate a deal, we go back to persuading the NHSPRB on the basis of our evidence for this coming pay year. Be prepared in that situation for a recommendation as late as June or July.

The RCM is campaigning, negotiating and evidencing the absolute necessity of fair pay right now for the NHS and for our members. Fair pay is overdue.

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