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Campaigning for fair pay in an RCN that leads for members

Carol Popplestone 11 Mar 2022 RCN President

Chair of RCN Council Carol Popplestone writes about our new pay demand on government, explains how key decisions are taken and updates on plans to drive forward change in the RCN.

If there’s one thing I hope members heard from the RCN this week it’s that we made a major announcement on what we’re calling for in the next NHS pay settlement.

We have shown our hand in the NHS pay review body process after the UK government revealed their plans. Ministers think 2% - or maximum 3% - is ‘all they can afford’. And we said back that it’s time to recognise nursing skill and improve staffing levels with an award that not just covers the rise in inflation but goes 5% beyond it. When our demand was written, inflation was running at 7.5% and has even increased since.

There have been a few questions raised about who takes these particular decisions. In short: members. The formal submission that the RCN makes to the pay review body process was worked on and approved by the members you voted for. I am honoured to chair a Council of elected members from every part of the UK and representing all parts of the RCN membership. And these decisions are amongst the most important we take.

Nothing is more important to me than ensuring members lead this organisation in the best interests of our wider membership. This spring and moving into summer, members will see the outcomes of two very large and critical pieces of work that have come from Extraordinary General Meetings or member complaints of the most serious nature.

I just want to take a moment to remind members what you can expect. The independent consultants at KPMG have presented to Council in recent weeks on their report into governance and we have now seen their near-final document. Meanwhile Bruce Carr QC is due to complete his work towards the end of next month, looking at the RCN’s culture and leadership. When we put these two pieces together, elected Council members will release these recommendations alongside a plan that shows our determination to honour them. We are committed to leading the change we all want to see in the RCN.

Much has already happened in recent years that allows me to honestly say that members are leading this organisation and taking the key decisions – not least on the issue of pay.

In 2020, we undertook a new and democratic exercise to involve members in setting our pay demands of government. After record member engagement, we campaigned hard for 12.5%. After another below inflation award last year, rising living costs and the staffing shortage only getting more challenging we are sticking firmly to this ground.

Some of you are asking why the RCN is taking a different approach this year to other NHS unions. There is a lot of common ground across the union movement and we will be using that to all campaign together for a pay award that is significantly above the level of inflation. But there is a point of principle here for your Council - members deserve to know what the RCN is asking for.

The only difference between the RCN and other unions is that we are confidently stating that nursing deserves a pay award 5% higher than the rate of inflation. That isn’t being uncollegiate, it’s about doing the right thing by our members and being honest about what ‘above inflation’ means for us.

Behind closed doors and out at the street protests, I’ll stand alongside all trade unions campaigning for a significant above inflation NHS pay rise. Leadership requires tough decisions at times. But there is only one group of people Council has in mind when we make these decisions: the RCN’s half a million members. You deserve this and more.

Carol Popplestone

Chair of RCN Council

Carol has been a registered nurse since 1978. She works as a clinical nurse specialist for Macmillan developing and providing a nurse-led service for patients with urological cancers.

Carol is also an accredited RCN steward and was a member of the RCN UK Stewards Committee from 2013 to 2016. She has previously served as a member of the RCN Council from 2016 to 2019 and has been Interim Chair of Council since July. She has also been chair of the RCN Yorkshire & the Humber Board and was a member of the RCN Trade Union Committee.

Page last updated - 11/03/2022