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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 June 2007, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
Minister raises nurse pay concern
Nurse with doctor and patient
The nurse pay rise is a UK-wide issue
Welsh Health Minister Edwina Hart has written to her UK counterpart Patricia Hewitt to express her disappointment over a pay deal for nurses in Wales.

Earlier this year, the independent pay review body recommended that nurses be given a 2.5% pay increase from April.

But only a staggered deal has been offered.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said it was "encouraged" by the latest discussions and it hoped the full 2.5% increase would follow.

The current pay deal gave nurses a 1.5% increase in April, with an extra 1% to follow in the future.

The RCN, which is considering a UK-wide strike on the issue, has claimed the staggered pay award was the equivalent of a below-inflation 1.9% pay rise and was saving the government 60m.

Edwina Hart
Edwina Hart said there should be a UK-wide agreement

The union, which has 22,700 members in Wales, said it was encouraged after Wednesday's Welsh assembly debate and said it was looking forward to meeting Ms Hart on 21 June.

Ms Hart told the assembly that she had started assessing the costs of the potential pay increase to the assembly government.

Ms Hart stressed there had to be "national agreement" and that the UK government should "honour what was reported by the salary review body".

Plaid, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have all backed calls for nurses to be given the full increase backdated to April 2007.

The RCN is set to hold an indicative ballot of its NHS members to see whether they would support a vote on what would be the first UK industrial action.

It has been reported that any strike action could see nurses working to rule or refusing to fill out some paperwork.

A RCN spokesperson said: "We recognise the support shown to nurses from all four parties and we look forward to that support being matched by a full 2.5% pay increase for nurses."

The Scottish Executive has committed to pay the 2.5% increase in full.

'Angry'

Speaking ahead of Wednesday's plenary debate on the topic, Plaid Cymru's Helen Mary Jones called on Labour to have "political courage to give Welsh nurses a fair pay deal".

"The cost of implementing the award in full according to civil servants would be 7m," she said.

"This amount is small in comparison to the health budget of 5.4bn."

Plaid is also demanding changes to the application process for junior doctors and action to tackle violence against NHS staff.

Welsh Tory leader Nick Bourne said the two-stage pay offer had left nurses "feeling angry, frustrated and let down".

"It is time the first minister and this minority Labour assembly government shows how much we all value our NHS nurses by rejecting the Westminster proposal," he said.

"We must put the assembly's new powers to the test by requesting the immediate transfer of legislation needed to deliver this important payment," he added.




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