Nurses to vote on pay action

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The Independent Online
IN AN unprecedented "first" in the National Health Service, 400 nurse members of the Royal College of Nursing are to ballot on industrial action over a dispute with their mid-Wales employers over pay.

Permission to go ahead was given last week by the RCN's ruling council in London after Powys Health Care NHS Trust failed to settle last year's national pay claim.

It is the first time in Britain that the organisation has authorised such a step. Last year, RCN members voted overwhelmingly to tear up their no-strike pledge, ending years of moderation.

The move followed nurses' fury over the Government's pay offer - just 1 per cent nationally and up to 2 per cent negotiated locally.

For 12 months the Powys negotiations had stalled while the trust argued that it could not afford to pay a 3 per cent rise because it faced a pounds 400,000 overspend. Nurses rejected a re-jigging of conditions which would have led, they claimed, to a loss of around pounds 100 a year in overtime payments.

"While everywhere else discussions are under way on pay for the next financial year, nurses in Powys are still on 1994 rates," Mrs Dorothy Stonebridge of the RCN said yesterday.

If the vote goes in favour of action, a work-to-rule and a ban on paperwork are expected. The RCN claimed that patient care would not be affected.

That was disputed by Tony Coles, the Trust's director of human resources. "Any form of industrial action will inevitably affect care," he said.