Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/nclexion/public_html/wp-content/themes/jnews/class/ContentTag.php on line 47
Several Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members have co-authored a petition calling for an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) over the college and trade union’s handling of the current presidential election.
Authors include past RCN president Andrea Spyropoulos, former RCN council chair and current congress vice chair Michael Brown, former council member Linda Bailey, and former RCN Students’ Committee chair Craig Davidson.
“Nobody wants to call an EGM, we do not do so lightly”
Also on the list are RCN Nurses in Management and Leadership Forum committee member Paul Jebb, RCN Mental Health Forum chair Ed Freshwater, RCN steward and safety representative Nikki Williams, and disqualified presidential candidate and former congress chair Stuart McKenzie.
The EGM petition calls “to force the change required, to protect the integrity of our trade union, to protect the profession of nursing and to make sure the RCN will properly represent us as we fight for better pay, prospects and conditions for us all”.
The petition adds “that members have no confidence in the current leadership of the RCN” and that it “can only be restored by having a full independent review of the management and governance functions” of the college.
The petitioners seek for a “representative group from forums, branches, past presidents and the petitioners [to be] developed, chaired by the current president, [overseeing] the appointment of an independent review team with funding allocated and independent legal advice made available”.
The findings of this review would then “be presented for debate and voting by the membership at the next annual general meeting in 2021”.
Below some of the authors of the petition set out in more detail why they are calling for an EGM.
Nobody wants to call an EGM, we do not do so lightly. However, it seems the leadership is failing to listen to members.
The poor governance around the presidential election, disqualification, and treatment of candidates, including incumbent president Professor Anne Marie Rafferty, who is a globally eminent nurse leader and academic, holding the college’s highest elected position, is unforgivable.
And no-one is apologising. People are human and make mistakes; I understand that. But no action has been taken to redress this injustice.
However, this EGM goes beyond the presidential election. Governance failings affect everything the RCN does.
We want to focus on achieving better pay, terms and conditions and implementing safe staffing legislation.
However, with things as they are, we cannot trust our leaders to fight for this on our terms. After all the RCN is its members.
We are an organisation that relies on the unity of the members and the harmony of our working relationships with all in the organisation.
To some extent, we have that; but we seem to have placed ourselves in a governance straight-jacket regarding our current elections.
I am supporting the call for an EGM. It is the only measure left open to the membership to address the serious issues our current presidential elections have raised.
This move is constructive and aims to strengthen the membership voice within the constitutional framework. In short, we want to understand what went wrong and fix it.
The RCN has not learned from the 2018 challenges, and the recent election problems are an indication that our policies and processes are outdated.
As an ex-chair of council, I want to support them to reform, not call for their removal. The way forward is a full independent review of governance and management functions within the College.
From our information, council were informed of the decisions to disqualify candidates and pause the election after they were made.
However, they were not allowed to debate or engage around these decisions. We need more from our governing body and less from certain staff members.
The chair of council resigned over this shambolic process that RCN staff members took upon themselves to implement, with no communication to council from them or the chair.
The treatment of both candidates, who are highly respected and active within the college, is outrageous. As a trade union and professional body, we should be role models, not a laughing stock.
Two candidates were disqualified for tagging @TheRCN on Twitter or asking to connect with members on Facebook.
It is a real stretch of the imagination to consider that use of ‘official RCN resources’.
Meanwhile, two were published in RCN journals. The policy explicitly states you cannot do this, yet they remain on the ballot.
“We have to stop this failed election, and we have to sort this failure of governance and process”
There is no point in having a policy if you cherry-pick who it applies to. We were then told by email that elections were ‘paused’.
There is no facility for this in the policy. So, who decided that; using what process, and for how long? Then it turns out that it was not paused at all, so did the RCN mislead members?
The chair of council resigns, begging the question – if everything was honest and above board, why the pause and why the resignation?
If it is not all honest and above board, why has it not been stopped? If we as registered nurses behaved like this, we would face disciplinary action at the very least.
We expect high standards from our professional body; this shabby mess has tarnished the reputations of two respected candidates and the RCN.
We have to stop this failed election, and we have to sort this failure of governance and process. We cannot do that without an EGM.
If you accept this shoddy policy at face value, then certainly the remaining two candidates should also be disqualified.
Section 4.1 (Appendix C of the RCN election policy) specifically states that putting across your views on an issue could be interpreted as electioneering.
“There is no clarity over what an ‘RCN resource’ is or is not”
Both did this, with one candidate’s article in an RCN journal being completely devoted to their views.
There is information that the policy was amended in 2019, but the wording was unchanged; it states that the objection period was removed, but it is still in there.
There is no process to be followed if there are complaints; no identification of who decides who has transgressed and what the process is, and no right of appeal.
There is no clarity over what an ‘RCN resource’ is or is not, and sanctions have not been applied evenly.
Previous candidates in elections have put similar information out and have not been disqualified.
Lastly, there has been no change to the wording that ‘face-to-face’ communication is best in this year of Covid-19.
I am disgusted by the way the RCN has handled this. I am angry that the rules have been interpreted in one way for the disqualified candidates, yet when other candidates do the same, it is ignored.
The policy surrounding this is vague, poorly worded, and unfit for purpose. Complaints made about the conduct of other candidates have not been acted upon.
Anne Marie and Stuart are highly respected nurses, academics and friends. Professor Rafferty was the dean of my school of nursing and has inspired me to become the nurse I am today.
In recent years, it has felt like a gap has grown between the membership and the leadership of the college.
While council bore the brunt of this at the last EGM, there are still those operating the administrative functions of the college without transparency to the wider membership.
The governance review released in 2020 has only recently been published. Yet we appear to have fallen at the first hurdle in its implementation.
These elections make a mockery of being member-led, going to the heart of why members do not have full trust in their college.
Linda Bailey, Michael Brown, Craig Davidson, Ed Freshwater, Paul Jebb, Stuart McKenzie, Andrea Spyropoulos and Nikki Williams