RCN reveals inflation threshold for renegotiating nurse pay deal

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) could bail out of the three-year pay deal by Christmas if inflation is 0.1 per cent higher than the government predicts, Independent Nurse can reveal.

Nurses have yet to decide whether to accept the deal, which includes a 2008/9 rise of 2.75 per cent, and rises of 2.4 and 2.25 per cent in the following years.

The RCN has recommended it to members, and believes it is acceptable if government predictions of falling inflation prove correct. Unite has rejected it outright, and Unison is consulting its members. 

Inflation as measured by the retail price index (RPI), which includes factors such as house prices, is currently running at 3.8 per cent. The government says this will fall to 3 per cent by the end of the year, and further thereafter.

RCN head of employment relations Josie Irwin told Independent Nurse that the union would activate a clause to reopen pay talks if government predictions proved even fractionally inaccurate. ‘If the RPI was 3.2 per cent at Christmas and looked like staying still, we would go to the Pay Review Body.' She said this could apply even at 3.1 per cent. 

The review body would then seek a remit from ministers to revise the pay deal, she said.

Ms Irwin said if inflation was 3 per cent in the second or third years of the pay deal, ‘of course' the clause would be activated. This could happen with inflation at 2.5 per cent if other factors such as increased levels of nurse emigration demanded it, she said. 

Asked to guarantee that the DoH would honour the inflation clause, health secretary Alan Johnson told the RCN Congress in Bournemouth last week that there was ‘no force on earth' that would stop the deal being reworked if inflation demanded it.

nick.bostock@haymarket.com

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