Staff at the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) is preparing to take strike action over a below-inflation pay rise offer.
Unite has announced it is balloting more than 100 of its members responsible for the day-to-day running of the RCGP for industrial action over pay.
The union said that the workers, who provide services to GPs who are members of the RCGP in areas such as education, policy, research, exams, events planning and committee facilitation, have rejected a 7% pay offer, increased by an additional £400 one off payment, after several rounds of negotiations.
Unite described the pay offer as ‘a real-terms pay cut’, when the real rate of inflation, RPI, currently stands at 10.7%.
It said that this was ‘despite the RCGP finishing the financial year £1.4m ahead of budget’ and that the workers ‘are angry at not being compensated for covering staffing shortages and implementing efficiency savings’.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: ‘These workers have bent over backwards to cover staffing shortfalls and deliver excellent financial results for the Royal College of General Practitioners.
‘The college’s motto translates to “compassion with knowledge”. Well, it should know enough to realise these workers are struggling with rising bills and treat them properly. Unite’s members at the college will receive their union’s unwavering support.’
Unite regional officer Matt Freeman said: ‘The RCGP has enough reserves to give these workers a proper pay rise that reflects their hard work and the cost of living crisis. It needs to come back with an offer our members can accept.’
The ballot will close on 29 August.
RCGP’s interim chief operating officer Mark Thomas said: ‘We are disheartened and disappointed by Unite’s decision to ballot members on strike action.
‘We have been negotiating with the union for many months on the pay award for 2023/24, including seeking support from the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).
‘Unfortunately, we have been unable to reach agreement and there remains a material difference between the pay offer we have made and the claim from the union.
‘The pay offer we have made is a consolidated award of 7% for all staff plus a one-off, non-consolidated bonus, making the total pay offer equivalent to 7.5% – 8.8% (average of 8.1%). The union’s claim is equivalent to 10.6% – 14.6% (average of 12.4%).
‘This is higher than inflation and higher than all sector market pay awards. As a charity and professional membership body, we do not believe this claim to be reasonable or justifiable.
‘The college highly values all our staff and the hard work they do to provide services and support to our GP members and to raise standards of care for patients. We are operating in a very challenging economic environment and recognise the pressures that extremely high inflation and the rising cost of living are placing on our colleagues.
‘We want to do all we can to reduce and relieve these pressures. However, we also need to be prudent in managing our finances in order to meet our regulatory obligations and deliver on the expectations of our membership.
‘We have written to all our staff, not just union members, as it is important for them all to understand the status of the negotiations and the rationale for the college’s position.
‘We encourage all our staff who are union members to participate in the ballot so that the result reflects the views of our staff as broadly as possible. In deciding how to vote, we hope they will consider the reasons as to why we do not believe a strike is justified given the pay offer which has been made.’
Last month, the BMA confirmed that LMCs can lawfully participate in preparations for potential industrial action for GPs, including canvas opinion and express support.
The doctor’s union has issued advice for LMCs on how to participate in potential industrial action, after taking legal advice earlier this year.