Union talks with the Government

 Josie Irwin 23 Nov 2017

Josie Irwin, RCN Associate Director Employment Relations, sheds light on talks with the Government about “pay structure modernisation”.

In yesterday’s Budget announcement, Chancellor Philip Hammond said he’ll support a pay rise for nursing staff in 2018/2019, but only if there’s agreement in talks with the RCN and other NHS unions:
“My Rt Hon Friend the Health Secretary [Jeremy Hunt] has already begun discussions with health unions on pay structure modernisation for Agenda for Change staff to improve recruitment and retention.”
But what are these talks, and what do they mean for RCN members, like you?
Official talks with the Government have not actually started yet. RCN Council would have to agree any move to negotiations.
But for two years, NHS staff side (made up of the lead negotiators from the 14 trade unions that represent people who work in the NHS) have been in exploratory discussions with Government officials about possible reforms to Agenda for Change
These reforms include reducing incremental points, making it quicker to get to the top of each band and getting rid of overlaps between pay bands, so that promotion is rewarded and means something. Our view is that this would be beneficial for staff, help recruitment and retention and improve the dire staffing situation and ultimately, would be good for patients too.
Discussions are ongoing and nothing has been agreed.
Separate to these talks, the RCN will submit its evidence to the independent NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) next month
We’re clear – and will make the point in our evidence to the PRB – that any future pay award should apply to staff working at all bands and cannot be linked to so-called “productivity increases”.
Productivity is not about making overstretched nurses, working unpaid hours after 12 hour shifts, do even more. We know how tough it is for nursing staff, and how hard our members are working already, with demand for NHS services soaring and more than 40,000 nurse vacancies in England alone.
We are also clear that unsocial hours payments – made to reflect the demands placed on nursing staff, which disrupt their lives and those of their families – must be retained. These payments ensure the right care is available to keep patients safe. They are an incentive for working shifts that would otherwise be covered by agency staff.
The PRB will report in the spring and make its recommendation to the Government.
Jeremy Hunt will then announce the pay award for the year ahead.
When the announcement is made, RCN Council will consult members and all options, including balloting, remain on the table.

Find out more

Josie Irwin

Josie Irwin

RCN Associate Director of Employment Relations


Josie is the RCN’s chief negotiator. Her role includes providing leadership on pay and reward for nurses and health care assistants and direction on employment issues, including workforce planning, the working environment, health and safety and diversity.

Page last updated - 08/04/2019