Nurses' leaders to fight for extra 4% pay rise

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The Independent Online

Labour Editor

Leaders of 500,000 nurses are expected to demand a pay increase of some 4 per cent, on top of the 2 per cent national award sanctioned by ministers, with a warning that the claim could be backed up by industrial action.

As leaders of nursing staff continued yesterday to express their anger over the relative generosity of rises of up to 6.8 per cent awarded to doctors, union leaders predicted that a further 400,000 National Health Service workers would next week be offered a similar deal to nurses.

Leaders of the non-TUC Royal College of Nursing are due to meet today and may decide to set a claim to be negotiated at NHS trust level, on top of the 2 per cent rise.

Representatives of other unions, however, expressed the hope that all nursing staff - and other health workers - may be able to thrash out a target figure for trust-by-trust negotiations in a meeting scheduled for Monday.

Christine Hancock, general secretary of the RCN, has already indicated that her members should expect "equality" with junior doctors, who received a rise of 6.8 per cent on basic salary.

It is understood that the giant public service union Unison wants to target the bigger and richer trusts initially, during the local "top-up" bargaining envisaged by the Government, and then to urge others to match them.

Unlike last year, when ministers recommended that a nationwide rise of 1 per cent might be increased by a further 2 per cent locally, the Government has issued no specific guidelines.

Under a framework negotiated last autumn, all wage scales for health workers are to be uprated on 1 April to the full 3 per cent, to reflect local negotiations last year. The overwhelming majority of the 500 trusts paid an additional 2 per cent, on top of the 1 per cent national rise.

In its report issued on Thursday, the review body for Nursing Staff, Midwives, Health Visitors and Professions Allied to Medicine, said a total budget increase of 3.9 per cent was available to the NHS, but 2.8 per cent was to keep pace with inflation and the other 1.1 per cent was earmarked for improvement in services.

While the increase for doctors is staged so that 1 per cent is held back until 1 December, nurses believe they are being treated as poor relations.