Nurses to start voting next month on strike action over ‘unacceptable’ pay offer
Nurses will start voting next month on whether to strike over pay in what is being described as a “defining moment” for the profession.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said it will be recommending hundreds of thousands of its members support industrial action in a ballot that opens in mid-September.
The postal ballot will ask RCN members working for the NHS in England and Wales on Agenda for Change contracts if they will take strike action which involves a complete withdrawal of labour.
It will open on Thursday September 15 for four weeks.
If its members support strike action, it will be the first ever strike by RCN members in England or Wales.
The college went on strike for the first time in its history in Northern Ireland in 2019.
The RCN also announced it has increased its industrial action strike fund to £50 million, up from £35 million, to provide financial support towards lost earnings during strikes.
The college has called for a pay rise for nursing staff of 5% above RPI inflation, which is currently 11.8%.
Nurses in Wales were balloted on industrial action after rejecting the 3% pay rise offered by the Welsh Government.
The nurses’ trade union also lodged a formal dispute with the Welsh government over the increase, which was rejected by 94% of members.
Health minister Eluned Morgan announced the rise in July and said at the time it “recognises the dedication and commitment” of NHS staff.
Confirming the ballot on industrial action, RCN Wales Director Helen Whyley said: “Despite the First Minister announcing £991m of extra funding available for healthcare this year, none of it has been earmarked for nurses’ pay.
“Patients are waiting for treatment and care and nursing staff are needed to deliver that.
“There are over 1700 vacancies for registered nurses in NHS Wales and the Welsh Government needs to address this. For the past 18 months nursing staff have gone above and beyond in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic but now they feel undervalued, disenfranchised and angry.
“That’s why 94% voted that a 3% pay rise is totally unacceptable.”
RCN officials said industrial strike action was a last resort, but the current NHS staffing crisis was causing “unacceptable risk” to patients and staff.
A formal pay announcement is still awaited in Northern Ireland, while in Scotland the college has urged its members to reject a 5% pay offer from the Scottish government.
Pat Cullen, RCN general secretary, said: “Nursing staff will stop at nothing to protect their patients.
“Staff shortages are putting patient safety at risk and the Government’s failure to listen has left us with no choice but to advocate for strike action.
“A lifetime of service must never mean a lifetime of poverty. Ministers’ refusal to recognise the skill and responsibility of the job is pushing people out of the profession.
“The next prime minister must change course urgently.”
Carol Popplestone, who chairs the RCN Council, said in a message to members: “After years of underpayment and staff shortages, the fight for fair pay must strengthen.
“This year’s pay award does not help you with the rising cost of living. It will do nothing to help to recruit or retain more nursing staff where you work and will not keep patients safe.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.