Nurses to campaign for 9% increase in salaries

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The Independent Online
LEADERS OF Britain's 500,000 nurses are today expected to launch a campaign for a salary increase of at least 9 per cent, in a direct challenge to the Government's public-sector pay policy.

The public service union Unison and the Royal College of Nursing are submitting joint evidence to their pay review body in which their "bottom line" claim would bring the pay of newly qualified nurses into line with that of graduates.

The Independent understands that nurses' leaders will demand that the wages of fully trained nurses should increase from pounds 12,800 to pounds 14,000.

As part of the submission, nurses will reveal the findings of a survey which shows that three-quarters of their members would never recommend that anyone join the profession and work for the National Health Service. The poll also found that a fifth of nurses held a second job.

Publication of the evidence to the review body comes after a speech to the Labour Party conference by the Secretary of State for Health, Frank Dobson, who angered nurses by avoiding the issue of pay. He said only that achievement and excellence should be rewarded.

A series of ministers, including the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, have told the conference this week that there would be no relaxation of their austere policy towards public spending. Mr Blair has indicated that a grade of "supernurses" should be created who would be rewarded for their extra responsibilities, but he has made no comment about basic pay.

Bob Abberley, head of health at Unison, said the Government needed to face up to the recruitment and retention "crisis" in the NHS. "Unless they make pay a priority then they are not going to deliver all the other improvements they have in mind for the health service. Pay is now the burning issue in the NHS."

Stephen Griffin, director of employment relations at the RCN, said that there should be a clear link between the salaries of teachers and social workers and those of nurses. Members of the college had slipped behind in the pay stakes, he said.

"They will have to address the issue of basic pay or there will be nobody there to deliver the improvement in services," he said. The career structure and professional development of nurses also needed improvement, he said.

The submission from nurses' leaders comes amid mounting pressure on the Govern- ment over public sector pay. The formula that governs the pay of 50,000 firefighters is expected to produce an increase of 5.8 per cent, although funds have been set aside for a rise of only 4.8 per cent. The fire brigades union has warned that industrial action would be taken if local authorities made cuts to pay the higher wages. Firefighters in Essex mounted 24-hour stoppages recently in protest at a cut in the county's budget. Union sources believe that there would be more industrial action next year if the authorities proposed further reductions.

Leaders of 1.3 million local authority workers are expected to submit a claim for between 5 and 6 per cent - the inflation rate is 2.5 per cent.