Nurses and GPs threaten action in double pay row

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The Independent Online
Family doctors and nurses are threatening industrial action in separate battles with the Government over pay.

Unison, which represents 240,000 of Britain's 600,000 nurses, took the first step by starting arrangements to ballot members on industrial action yesterday.

It also launched a campaign for a 3 per cent pay rise to be paid to all nurses. The Goverment has agreed a 1 per cent national rise with up to 2 per cent to be agreed locally.

Over the next few weeks rallies, public petitions and meetings will be held around the country in an attempt to get the Government to back down.

Meanwhile, GPs are infuriated by government plans to change their out- of-hours payments from £47.85 to £9 plus a lump sum of £2,000 a year per doctor.

They decided at a meeting yesterday to continue with plans for sanctions. Sensing that their campaign is gaining ground, the GPs' committee of the British Medical Association voted to keep up the pressure.

They have received two letters from Gerald Malone, the Minister for Health. One announced an extra £15m for GP night-call co-operatives. The second stated the department of health's willingness to mount a publicity campaign to deter patients from calling doctors out unnecesarily.

In the light of the "unexpected and unforced letters" the GPs' representatives decided to continue the negotiations with the department but also for the BMA to continue to prepare a list of sanctions, ready for their next meeting in a months' time.

Last week, when doctors' pay rises were announced, the Government backed down on its intention to introduce local pay arrangements for hospital consultants. But GPs were disappointed over lack of progress with their out-of-hours payments and said the £15m was insufficient.

Tomorrow, angry members of the Royal College of Nursing will decide on their course of action. They regard the 1 per cent rise an insult.

The RCN has called an extraordinary council meeting to hear reports from the regions and plan action.

It will have to decide whether or not to accept the deal and campaign for 3 per cent for all nurses, or whether to reject it and fight for an improved across-the-board pay rise.

Since the 1 per cent pay award the attitude of the nurses has hardened and they are looking for ways of improving the pay deal.

The leaders of the RCN will have the task tomorrow of focusing the nurses' evident dissatisfication in order to construct a coherent campaign.

Malcolm Wing, Unison's deputy head of health, said yesterday that nurses would be consulted in their branches on what action to take, should public pressure fail to move the Government.

Mr Wing said nurses were the angriest they had been for 13 years - the last time there was a major industrial disute.

"I have never known nurses so angry. They are outraged at their treatment by this government and determined to ensure that pay justice is done.

"This campaign will unite the public and nurses in a nation-wide rejection of this despicable award," he said.

The nurses will demand full national funding of the award, with no cuts in jobs and services. They will also demand that the Government drops proposals which would pave the way for local negotiations on conditions.