26 INTERVIEW ‘The RCN is coming out of the other side of the pay deal settlement’ Chair of the RCN Council Sue Warner talks to David Swan about the RCN’s handling of last year’s pay deal settlement, which led to the Council standing down after losing a vote of no confidence, and how the organisation will improve as a result What did you think of the RCN’s approach to the EGM that followed the pay deal report? In particular, the RCN’s efforts in identifying the political allegiances of those who started the petition to force the EGM to take place, and many of those who signed. The College, which has always maintained it is apolitical, tried to bring politics into it – indeed many were Labour supporters. Was that wise? I think that comment about political allegiances was a single comment and it wasn’t about the people who signed the petition, or instigated the petition. It was about the 600 or so people who signed the petition but who weren’t RCN members. Their names were listed as signatories, but they were not members and so their presence on the list wasn’t valid. It wasn’t aimed at the members, and you’ll find that many members in the College share those political beliefs. We are an apolitical college, and we have members from all parties, but we are political. We have to be to ensure we get our point across. We’re not going to make a difference without making political statements, but we don’t have a particular party allegiance. nursinginpractice.com March/April 2019 Fact file Sue Warner 2019 – becomes chair of the RCN Council 2015 – obtains specialist qualification as health visitor 2011 – elected RCN Council member for the West Midlands 1999 – primary care manager in Redditch, establishes a 24-hour district nurse service 1995 – professional lead for district nursing in Peterborough 1981 – qualified as a district nurse Online Go online to read the full article nursingin practice.com The new RCN president, Professor Anne Marie Rafferty, was quoted as saying that the pay deal settlement and subsequent situation was a ‘crisis’, ‘very damaging’, and that the ‘implosion’ of the organisation made her question whether she wanted to be associated with it at all. Do you agree with her description of the situation? She used some strong words. Having been there, I can’t say I agree with that. Professor Rafferty is a fantastic president, and all members have different opinions, which is a good thing. I wouldn’t call the situation an ‘implosion’. I’d say members wanted to be heard and we listened to them. The College has moved on since then. But in the events of last year, we have to remember that this is a powerful organisation that achieves a lot for its members. The pay deal was incredibly complex. What we said to our members was the same as what the other 13 unions who backed the deal said to their members. When you were running for re-election for your Council seat and when you put your name down as Council chair, did you, like Professor Rafferty, have doubts about being associated with the organisation? I think we all probably did. As a Council, we met after the vote of no confidence, and were advised that if we felt that we didn’t want to stand down, we weren’t legally obliged to. But we felt it was a matter of honour, so we did stand down. Having stood down, we also felt we had been elected onto the Council by our own constituents and our own regions. So we decided to stand again for re-election to allow members in our areas to make that decision. There will be another election for Council places this year – we have a four-year term which finishes this year and we have been elected to finish the final year of that four-year cycle. The Council put out a statement at the time of the independent report saying it was ‘committed to addressing the recommendations in full’, and that ‘work had already started’ to make the College stronger. What has this Council done in response to that report and to ensure communication errors, I n the pay negotiations last year, the Council took a lot of criticism for ‘not being fully informed of the deal’, and ultimately the Council members were forced to stand down from their seats. But the independent report that followed, commissioned to examine the way the RCN approached the pay deal with its members, placed most of the responsibility for the miscommunication on the lead negotiator and chief executive. Do you think it is fair that Council was blamed like this? We were informed of most of the deal, but not whether that element of the 3% pay increase was 3% for all people. I think Council probably was blamed, but somebody had to be. Council is the official officer of the trade union – if you take on this position, you have to take the good and bad. It was difficult at times during that period, and for some members very traumatic. But we went through that process and we’re coming out the other side now. We’ve read the report and have got an action plan based on it.