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Large scale nurse strikes never seen

Nurses have taken part in work to rule industrial action before but stopped short of all-out strikes.

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NHS historian Geoffrey Rivett, author of the book From Cradle to Grave: the first 60 years of the NHS, describes the late 1970s and early 1980s as the most militant in NHS nursing history.

The year 1982 saw the biggest industrial unrest in NHS history with 13 health unions seeking a pay increase.

But Dr Rivett believes the establishment of an independent pay review body in July 1983 was “the nurses’ reward for their moderation” in that conflict.

He said: “Its establishment recognised their special position within the NHS, and in particular the fact that most of the staff had not engaged in industrial action. The government reserved the right to exclude from the scope of the review body any groups that did resort to industrial action.”

However, the future of the NHS pay review body is now in doubt as the government has pre-empted its role by announcing a two year pay freeze from April 2011. The new government has also said it wants to move towards local rather than national pay bargaining.

Until 1995 the Royal College of Nursing had a “no strike” policy. That has now been dropped, but a lengthy internal process still has to be completed before the college can call a national strike.

A union source said the “perfect storm” needed to trigger strike action would be an attack on pay and pensions coming at the same time as cuts compromised the quality of patient care.

Readers' comments (8)

  • should the above forces come together and not as i fear individually over the comming years then i vote to strike. the government need to save this is right and proper, howevever lets look at national drains such as MP pensions and a less popular front, Immigration. in an attempt to save the country from bankrupcy should both those in employment and the unemployed both help set things back on the road. i would happily see a penny rise in income tax so long as the same amount was removed from benefits. i would support anyone of pensionalble age being exempt unless they have taken early leave or good private pensions. its time as a nation we all played our part.

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  • The fact of the matter is, work to rule and striking works. It has been proven over and over again.

    Furthermore Nurses are one of the largest single workforces, we are also KEY workers. If we go on strike, everyone is in the shit, and they know it. That is why they use every dirty trick in the book to stop us doing it.

    If we strike, we will get what we want very, very quickly.

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  • too right! stop being so wishy washy, its your future and this is the time to be heard!

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  • Well there's a first time for everything!

    I for one think we should change that right about now. ALL nurses should grow a spine and take STRIKE action NOW!!!!!

    Are you listening RCN????

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  • i new ya got it mike now your showing your true colours about time too go for it chap,i call for action now!! thay have only been in power a month kick asses ya!!!

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  • Anonymous | 28-Jul-2010 1:04 pm:

    Huh??? What are you talking about?

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  • Martin Gray

    Why have the unions not balloted their members about taking industrial action so that the 'internal process' could be started??

    Fear is still the key to the power of the government and the NHS management; they know only too well that nurses are the least likely to strike and are the most likely o put up little or no resistance to demands made upon the profession.

    I agree, the nursing profession should grow a spine and evolve from jelly fissh into upright creatures with a strong backbone!

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  • Hooyah Martin!

    How do we go about getting our so called pathetic unions to start a ballot?

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