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Talks between council members at the Royal College of Nursing and petitioners seeking to force change at the college through an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) appear to have taken a positive turn.
The two sides met last night and agreed to work together to organise an EGM and on their joint commitment to ensuring the process will be “member-led”.
“Ultimately, it will be the members who decide the way forward”
A petition for an EGM was submitted to the RCN at the start of September, following a fallout over the handling of the college’s presidential election and the disqualification of two candidates.
The members disqualified were current president Professor Anne Marie Rafferty and Stuart McKenzie, a mental health nurse and former chair of RCN Congress.
Statements released last week pointed to potential tension between the two sides as the petitioners accused the RCN Council of failing the properly consult and engage with them in the planning for an EGM.
However, a meeting was held last night between Mr McKenzie, Ed Freshwater, Michael Brown and Linda Bailey from the petitioners’ working group and RCN Council members Jeremy Benton and Rod Thomson.
A new statement released by the petitioners’ working group following the meeting suggested that they had found ways to move forward amicably.
“Petitioners’ and council representatives found areas of agreement and have assigned individuals to work together on the practical aspects of delivering the EGM,” said the statement.
“The exact wording of voting items, the format of the meeting (which must be online due to Covid-19 restrictions), how to ensure members can speak to the matter and be confident in the voting process, and of course the date (provisionally early November) are all to be agreed by RCN Council after tonight’s initial discussions.”
“Petitioners’ and council representatives found areas of agreement”
Petitioners’ working group
Dave Dawes, chair of RCN Council, told Nursing Times today that he was “cautiously optimistic” that a resolution could be found.
Members of RCN Council would meet on 1 October to take a vote on the EGM plans and on the next steps for the presidential election.
“The meeting did take place last night and it seemed to be a pretty positive, constructive meeting,” he said.
“I think we’ve got some pretty good ways forward that I am hoping council will vote through on the 1st.
“The meeting next week will be a public meeting so members can watch the council discussion as well, they can see for themselves how council are dealing with the issues.”
The term of office for current president Professor Rafferty comes to an end in December.
The election has been suspended in its current form due to the controversy of the disqualifications and the RCN has said the process would need to be started afresh.
Mr Dawes said one of the options being considered was to extend Professor Rafferty’s term of office and hold the election next year instead.
However, members would need to give their approval for this at the EGM, as well as for any other decisions on changes that needed to be made at the college in response to the election debacle.
“Ultimately, it will be the members who decide the way forward and I think both sides, both council and the petitioners, are very comfortable that it needs to be a member-led resolution,” added Mr Dawes.
“So, we are trying to put as much information and as much control in the hands of the members to guide the general meeting and council will implement whatever the members vote for.”