CAMPAIGNS: PUBLIC AWARENESS; Nursing grudges over low wages

Client: Royal College of Nursing PR team: In-house Campaign: To secure a three per cent pay increase for nurses Timescale: February 1995 - February 1996 Budget: pounds 106,480 but campaign generated pounds 97,000 from increased RCN membership

Client: Royal College of Nursing

PR team: In-house

Campaign: To secure a three per cent pay increase for nurses

Timescale: February 1995 - February 1996

Budget: pounds 106,480 but campaign generated pounds 97,000 from

increased RCN membership



In February 1995 the Government announced a one per cent national pay

rise for nurses, with any additional rises being decided by individual

NHS Trusts. This outraged nurses, especially as increases of three per

cent-plus were announced for other professions covered by public pay

award bodies. The Royal College of Nursing Council rejected the report

of the Pay Review Body and launched a year-long campaign to achieve a

three per cent pay rise for nurses in every NHS Trust.



Objectives



In the short term the RCN sought to maintain a national going rate for

nurses’ pay by securing a three per cent rise from every trust. In the

longer term the RCN wanted to resist the move towards locally determined

pay in the health service, and to lay the groundwork for a fair award in

1996.



Tactics



The slogan ‘Three per cent now! A fair deal for nurses’ was used

throughout the campaign which capitalised on early media sympathy

highlighting the unfairness of local pay, warning of growing nurse

shortages and supplying case studies of skilled nurses.



The broadcast media in particular followed every twist and turn of the

RCN’s case, as they tried to reach the critical mass of 300 Trusts

offering three per cent. Broadsheet newspapers covered the campaign as

part of a broader health service news agenda.



The RCN timed the campaign to full effect: releasing important

announcements early on Thursday, so that they could be taken up in

Prime Minister’s Question Time, and then continue right through to

Question Time on BBC1.



Nurses organised leafletcampaigns, rallies in shopping centres,

collected signatures at pharmacists and petitioned MPs. RCN negotiators

were instructed to only accept individual three per cent deals with

Trusts once 300 Trusts had agreed, to create a bandwagon effect.



Results



By mid-September, the critical mass of 300 Trusts offering three per

cent had been achieved, and by January 1996 95 per cent of Trusts were

offering this deal.



RCN membership increased throughout the campaign, with members balloted

on their opinions. Improved internal communications with the membership

has also been one of the lasting legacies of the pay campaign.



The campaign had two low spots. The decision to take industrial action

lost some media sympathy. The formerly sympathetic Guardian said that

the nurses were taking action on the wrong issue. The RCN Council also

campaigned separately from the other health service unions, namely

UNISON, leading to some confusion over issues. At a local level UNISON

reports that campaigning with RCN branches was rock solid.



Verdict



The RCN achieved a three per cent annual increase for its membership,

and got public support on the issue of industrial action. Throughout the

1995 health service pay campaign there were briefings and counter

briefings by different unions, NHS Trusts and NHS management. Despite

this, the RCN’s message and image came over loud and clear to both its

own membership and the public - no mean feat.



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.