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Operations could be cancelled if nurses pay dispute in Guernsey is not resolved

Nurses say their pay has fallen behind that of other public sector professionals and is significantly lower than nurses in Jersey. Credit: ITV Channel TV

Guernsey's Health Committee president has called for the States' top political committee to give reassurances over nurses pay, or risk causing disruption to patients.

In a letter to Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq of the Policy and Resources Committee, Deputy Heidi Soulsby has warned that failure to engage with staff may lead to elective operations being cancelled and the provision of community nursing being scaled back.

Nurses say their pay has fallen behind that of other public sector professionals in Guernsey and is significantly lower than those in similar roles in Jersey.

In August, a petition by the Royal College of Nursing was handed in to the States calling for a pay rise of 10% and regular demonstrations have taken place since.

Deputy Soulsby demanded a 'clear commitment' to addressing the pay dispute between the States and nurses on the island.

The actions taken and approaches adopted by the nursing and allied health professionals in relation to their dispute has been, without question, professional and respectful of the wider community. However, it is very clear that their patience is rapidly running out and options are now being considered by a number of them which may include industrial action.

My Committee intends neither to condone, nor condemn, the taking of such action. I will however highlight that action has the potential to be incredibly damaging and costly should it take place. Depending on the nature and duration, it is likely that HSC would have to consider suspending elective operations and other procedures in order to use the reduced nursing capacity to care for the acutely unwell patients within the hospital. Nursing within the community would also be significantly reduced, requiring care packages to some of the most vulnerable within our community being reduced or reprioritised...

Tangible action must be taken as quickly as possible to provide reassurances that the States of Guernsey is committed to the principle of equal pay for work of equal value.

– Deputy Heidi Soulsby, President of Health and Social Care Committee

In response Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq, from the States' Policy and Resources Committee, said that negotiations with three of the four unions involved had gone well - but urged the RCN to ballot its members.

‘As a result of a review into pay, terms and conditions, an offer has been made to those staff employed on Agenda for Change terms and conditions of a 5% increase to all pay scales and allowances to apply from 1st January 2019 (meaning the pay offer, if agreed, would be backdated to this date).

This offer is significantly above the relevant inflation figure (September RPIX 2.8%) and above the offers made to all other pay groups across the States of Guernsey, for 2019. Negotiations for 2020 will begin once the 2019 pay offer has been settled.

There are four unions who hold collective bargaining rights within the Agenda for Change pay group; Unite, Prospect, RCM and RCN. Unite have confirmed that, following a ballot of its members within this group they have ‘clearly accepted’ the offer. Prospect has confirmed that, following a ballot of its members within this group they have ‘marginally accepted the offer on a low turnout’. The RCM have confirmed that, following a survey of its members within this group they have rejected the offer.

The RCN have rejected the offer without balloting its members.

The States of Guernsey has been clear that it is committed to the objective of ‘equal pay for work of equal value’. However, this commitment applies to all staff across the States of Guernsey and cannot be taken in isolation for one group. Work is ongoing, at pace, to find sustainable ways of implementing this against other competing budgetary needs. It is important here that I officially recognise and acknowledge your value and significant contribution and service that you all make to our community ’.

– Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq, Policy and Resources Committee, States of Guernsey

RCN members are due to march in protest on Saturday 21 September.

They will leave Salerie Corner car park at 11.30am before proceeding through St Peter Port.