Members of the Royal College of Nursing in the Channel Islands have moved closer to making history by potentially becoming the first nurses from the union to officially go on strike.
In a historic move, the RCN has unanimously agreed that its Jersey Branch can ballot members working at the States Health and Community Services Department on taking strike action over pay.
“This historic decision has come after years of poor pay and a desultory offer”
However, the ballot going ahead is dependent on mediation by Jersey Advisory and Conciliation Service (JACS) with the States Employment Board not resulting in an improved pay offer.
The present offer, which was rejected earlier this month, is for 3.1% for 2018 and a further 3% for 2019.
It also includes a promise to overhaul the roles within health and community services to try and address the issue of pay parity with the allied health professionals group, who currently earn more than nurses. RCN Jersey members rejected proposed deal by a majority of 62%.
It represents the first time in its history that the RCN has authorised a strike ballot and if members walk out, it will be the first time the college’s members have gone on strike anywhere.
RCN members have taken this decision after “years of unfair treatment and a below-inflation pay offer”, the college said in a statement.
The RCN added that it would be working with the Jersey Nurses Association, whose members also rejected the “final” pay offer from the States but by a majority of 85%.
Lindsay Meeks, regional director of RCN South East, said: “This historic decision has come after years of poor pay and a desultory offer from the States’ government.
“It reflects the strength of feeling among our members, after years of unequal pay which is driving people away from the island, and ultimately risks safe patient care as nurse numbers dwindle,” she said.
“But first and foremost, nurses’ responsibility is to their patients and should the strike go ahead, members will take every precaution to ensure treatment and care remains safe,” said Ms Meeks.
“Our members want this situation resolved, and the RCN will continue to negotiate through the mediation service,” she said.
She added: “We hope it doesn’t come to a walk-out, but the States should be in no doubt our members will not be ignored again.”