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Nurses get back around table over pay dispute

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THE Royal College of Nursing has called a breakdown in relations with Policy & Resources Committee ‘water under the bridge’ ahead of renewed pay talks later this month.

Kenny Lloyd, the RCN convenor, and regional director Patricia Marquis. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 27156507)

A postal ballot with the option of industrial or strike action will still take place this week, however, in case no progress is made.

Both sides have previously accused the other of refusing to engage fully with the negotiation process but are willing to return to the table in another attempt to resolve the dispute.

After talks broke down in November, the matter was referred to the industrial disputes officer, who in turn referred it to an independent tribunal due to the gulf between the two sides.

The agreement to re-enter talks on 27 and 28 February postpones the tribunal process.

Patricia Marquis, regional director of the RCN, welcomed the development because the nurses’ union had not believed the tribunal’s terms of reference would tackle the crux of the problem, which she said was more complicated than a simple one-year pay rise.

‘The bigger picture is we want a commitment to a timetable to equal pay for nurses in Guernsey.’

She said other benefits, such as housing allowances and bonuses, must also be taken into account and feared a tribunal might not consider these factors.

While cautiously optimistic that talks with P&R would prove fruitful, the RCN has decided to continue with its ballot on industrial action.

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Mrs Marquis said a strike could still take place if the tone of discussions are not productive.

The timetable for the ballot remains unchanged.

RCN members will be voting on industrial action via postal ballot this week and results will be collated on 28 February, the second day of negotiations with P&R.

Kenny Lloyd, RCN convenor, said he was keen to put past disagreements behind them.

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He lamented any potential industrial action and hoped an amicable solution could be found.

‘It’s not good to dwell in the past and this is a place none of us wanted to be.

‘We want to have a negotiation and settle everything.’

The postal ballot warns that that participating in a strike or industrial action would be in breach of contract and that there is no entitlement to pursue any resulting unfair dismissal claim in Guernsey.

The decision to consider strike action had not been taken lightly, said Mrs Marquis.

‘The nurses are all really, really worried about the effect on patients.

‘It was quite emotional for me to see how emotional they were.

‘It is traumatic for them thinking they are going to walk away and leave people. It’s not something we do lightly. It’s a really significant decision to tick that box saying they won’t come to work one morning.’

P&R’s offer of a 5% salary increase backdated to January 2019 and a further 5% increase backdated to September 2019 was rejected.

Zach Coffell

By Zach Coffell
News reporter

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