The Royal College of Nursing has said its members are taking an “unprecedented stand” today as they take part in a series of protests across the UK over pay, while warning of a potential ballot over strike action.
The union said that if the government failed to remove its 1% cap on annual salary increases for NHS nurses it would ballot its 270,000 nursing staff members over industrial action later this year.
Protests are planned for 30 locations, including a demonstration outside the Department of Health’s offices in London and a rally at the Scottish Parliament.
It marks the start of a “summer of protest” which the RCN committed to at its annual congress last month.
The RCN said the government’s decision to hold down pay increases below inflation rates for the past seven years meant NHS nurses were now at least £3,000 worse off in real-terms than in 2010.
”Nursing staff are taking an unprecedented stand and saying ‘enough is enough’”
It claimed the cap was stopping its estimated 40,000 nurse vacancies in England from being filled.
The union reiterated today that if the prime minister did not remove the cap this summer, it would hold a formal legal ballot later in the year.
A poll among RCN members earlier this year revealed 91% of the 52,000 NHS nursing staff who took part would be in favour of industrial action if a ballot went ahead.
However, if the same number of nurses took part in an official ballot, it would not fulfil the new Trade Unions Act requirement of a 50% turnout in order for strike action to be allowed.
”Protests in dozens of locations will leave Theresa May in little doubt over nurses’ fears for the safety of their patients”
“This summer, nurses will show the government how angry they feel over its failure to fund the NHS. Protests in dozens of locations will leave Theresa May in little doubt over nurses’ fears for the safety of their patients,” said RCN chief executive and general secretary Janet Davies.
“When NHS and care services are short of staff, patients pay a heavy price. Nursing staff are taking an unprecedented stand and saying ‘enough is enough’. They know the risks of cut-price healthcare and will not tolerate it,” she said.
“Yet ministers appear determined to drive more staff out with a punitive pay policy and lethal cocktail of pressure on services. The cap stands in the way of filling 40,000 vacant nurse jobs in England alone.
“It shouldn’t pay better to stack supermarket shelves than to walk the wards. But a pay ‘rise’ that is deliberately held below inflation is in fact a pay cut. People cannot be asked to take the hit repeatedly and fund the NHS deficit from their own pocket,” said Ms Davies.