Local pay could provoke action

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The Independent Online
Ministers were warned by the moderate Royal College of Nursing yesterday that they risked provoking outbreaks of industrial action through their determination to introduce local pay into the National Health Service.

Christine Hancock, general secretary of the college, questioned the "individual independence and integrity" of Pay Review Body members who cooperated with the Government's policy of shifting salary negotiations down to trust level.

Speaking after the RCN annual congress in Bournemouth overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for a restoration of the body's independence, she said national pay awards avoided disruption of services.

"The spectre of industrial action is associated with local pay, not with the national scenario. That's the risk the Government is introducing in a fragmented local pay system."

Last year, the college abandoned its ban on industrial action in the wake of a decision by the Pay Review Board to award a 1 per cent national increase to nurses, enhanced by up to 2 per cent in trust-based bargaining. This year the body offered a 1 per cent rise, but gave no guidelines for local negotiations.

The RCN conference fought shy of a motion declaring that the pay advisory organisation was "no longer an appropriate body" for nurses, instead it backed a resolution, backed by 94 per cent of delegates, calling on the college's national council to work for greater independence.

A series of angry delegates rounded on the national salary committee for following the Government's line. Ms Hancock said that the debate constituted "a very strong personal attack on the integrity and independence of members of the review body".

Sylvia Thomas, a representative on the national shop stewards' committee, said that the Government's policy had set "nurses against doctors, hospital against hospital and trust against trust".