Let me say from the beginning, I am a big fan of the RCN. I’ve had great professional and personal support from the institution and the members in the six years I’ve been a member. I’ve gone from insecure student not knowing anything to chairing the largest professional forum in that short time, my skills and knowledge being actively developed by my colleagues. It’s worth every penny I pay in and I respectfully honour the contribution that all those members make from their wages every month that allows people like to travel and argue on their behalf. It’s my professional body and my trade union, a safe place and a great resource. They/we don’t get everything right because we’re human, but there are some real howlers that need to be cleared up before rank and file nurses get ripped off.
After the Conservative’s “6.5% over three years” was announced, a lot of my colleagues and I were angry, about a number of things – not least being told by our unions (all of them bar the GMB) that it was a good deal. But that’s a detailed argument for another day.
Last Wednesday (18th April), the RCN’s lead negotiator Josie Irwin published an article on the Nursing Standard website called “A ‘male’ style of negotiation would not have delivered a better pay deal“.
In this article, Josie argues that the pay deal offered by government was down to the all-female representation on the health unions’ side of the table. In the article, we read that “[t]he all-female team… used persuasion and compromise to achieve an austerity-breaking pay offer”.
Josie closes her article saying “Critics who advocate an aggressive rejection of the deal without a credible alternative approach may be deluded about the effectiveness of such a ‘male’ approach. They are also unrealistic.”
There is something to address initially – if you are leading negotiations on behalf of the union, it is up to you to come up with an effective strategy. If I am unhappy with that strategy, I don’t have to come up with a new one for you. And just because I don’t have a fully formed plan, doesn’t mean yours is good.
To address this comment about being unrealistic – nurses in other countries have engaged in industrial action (or just the threat of it) and received handsome pay awards. This government has money (see the DUP and the rush to bomb Syria), they just don’t want to spend it on healthcare professionals. Rejecting this pay deal might work, campaigning for a better one might work, taking industrial action might work. That’s not unrealistic, it’s real life.
The pay offer (3% this year, 1.7% for the next two) is not “austerity-breaking” by any stretch of the imagination – it’s treading water for one year before taking away the lifebelt next year. So how exactly did the “persuasion and compromise” work out positively?
And lastly, why bring gender into this? I’ve been to Congress for the last five years and seen my female colleagues shouting for strike action . Why assume that a “male” approach is aggressive, grandstanding, antagonistic and unrealistic? Why assume that the success or failure of a negotiation is down to the gender of the speakers? I don’t care what gender the negotiators are, I care how good they are at doing there job – and I don’t know any nurse who thinks gender matters.
There’s a long way to go before nurses can expect a fair remuneration for their hard work. Until then, we have to live on hollow platitudes from millionaire ministers.
And maybe the men can go bang some rocks together…