Unite ballots NHS workers in Wales over industrial action
The Unite union is balloting NHS workers in Wales over potential strike action in a pay dispute.
Unite, which represents close to 100,000 NHS workers across the UK, has extended its current strike ballot of ambulance service staff in England and Scotland to include more health workers including nurses, dental workers and admin staff in Wales.
The Unite ballot, which could result in strikes early in the new year, comes as the Royal College of Nursing is expected to confirm the first ever strike by its members later this week.
The ballot among more than 300,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) was the biggest ever in the union’s 106-year history.
Unite National officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe told the Nursing Times: “The strike [ballot] across the NHS is widening because our members have had enough.”
“If our members walk out on strike, it will be the toughest thing they ever do but they have to protect our NHS,” he added.
The ballot, which closes on 30 Decem+++++++ber, includes a wide range of staff working, including: nursing, healthcare science, applied psychology, counselling and psychotherapy, dental professions, audiology, optometry, building trades, estates, craft and maintenance, administration, ICT, support services and ambulance services.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We have accepted the independent pay review body’s recommendations in full and have been clear that without additional funding from the UK Government, there are limits to how far we can go to address these concerns in Wales.
“We have called on UK Ministers to provide the additional funding necessary for fair pay rises for public sector workers and to take urgent action now to reduce inflation and provide the help people need during these difficult times.”
Although counting is still under way, it is understood that RCN officials believe enough members have voted for winter industrial action which is set to take place within a few weeks, possibly before Christmas.
The exact nature of the strike action is yet to be determined, but it will likely see patients face disruption to operations and appointments while already facing record NHS waiting lists.
A union source told the Observer newspaper: “This will see the majority of services taken out, and picket lines across the country.”
Its general secretary Pat Cullen said: “Our strike action will be as much for patients as it is for nurses – we have their support in doing this.”
“Huge numbers of staff – both experienced and newer recruits – are deciding they cannot see a future in a nursing profession that is not valued nor treated fairly.”
She added: “As we begin action, politicians in every part of the UK will be challenged to back their nursing staff and understand the strength of public support.”
The RCN said there are record nursing vacancies and in the last year 25,000 nursing staff around the UK left the Nursing and Midwifery Council register.
It said recent analysis showed an experienced nurse’s salary has fallen by 20% in real terms since 2010, saying the goodwill and expertise of nursing staff is being “exploited” by governments across the UK.
The RCN is campaigning for a pay rise of 5% above inflation.
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