A backdated pay increase of 10% for nurses on the island of Guernsey has been imposed by the government after negotiations were put on hold due to coronavirus.
In light on the current pandemic, the States of Guernsey’s Policy and Resources Committee (P&R) has implemented the most recent offer it had made for Agenda for Change staff for 2019.
“At a time when they will be called upon like never before this is a complete kick in the teeth”
The award includes a 5% pay increase effective from January 2019, and a further 5% increase with effect from September 2019.
This means staff under the Agenda for Change scheme will see their salaries increase by slightly over 10%.
The P&R said all negotiations for 2020 and future years were being paused “given the enormity of potential and unquantified demands on public funding” as a result of the outbreak.
While unions have expressed disappointment at the situation, they have agreed to halt any industrial action while the Covid-19 crisis is ongoing.
In a joint statement, leaders of the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Midwives and Prospect warned that the pay dispute was not over.
They said: “We recognise that Covid-19 has put pressure on public finances like never before, but withholding money from staff groups will not help. The pay gap remains and now staff feel even less valued than ever.
“Healthcare staff are at the frontline caring for people during the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic. The States will be asking more of these staff than ever before. A mere ‘we cannot thank you enough’ is not going to cut it with members.”
The unions remained “open and willing” to engage in negotiations to reach an agreement on pay in the future that could be approved by their members, the leaders added in their statement.
“The unions are clear; this imposition does not mean an end to our dispute, if anything it furthers our resolve to ensure Agenda for Change staff are paid what they so richly deserve,” they added.
Separately, Patricia Marquis, RCN regional director, described the lack of progress on pay discussions as “devastating for our members” who had recently voted in favour of taking industrial action.
“At a time when they will be called upon like never before this is a complete kick in the teeth,” she added.
“We have been strung along by the States for so long now. If it were not for Covid-19 we would absolutely be calling the nurses to strike.
“The States should make no mistake, once the threat from Covid-19 has passed, our members will walk out.”
“It would be irresponsible to make any commitment now with our community facing this threat”
Gavin St Pier
Following a meeting over the weekend, the P&R confirmed that all pay talks had been suspended and that a pay award for 2019 would be imposed.
Gavin St Pier, president of P&R, said: “Even before this crisis arrived in our island, we had publicly recognised the need for nurses to receive a pay increase above those awarded to other public sector employees. This is right and fair.
“However, the ramifications of Covid-19 are likely to continue to have serious implications for public finances and on individual households.
“We are not closing the door on dialogue around the potential further pay increases for Agenda for Change staff in 2021, but it would be irresponsible to make any commitment now with our community facing this threat.”
The ongoing pay row centres on concerns that nurses’ pay is less than that of other public sector workers whose role requires fewer qualifications.
The States of Guernsey has made four separate pay offers to unions representing Agenda for Change staff this year so far, all of which have been rejected.
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