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RCN urges members to take part in consultation on possible strike vote over pay


Members of the Royal College of Nursing are being urged to take part in an online vote over whether to hold an official ballot on strike action over pay.

The RCN will today begin asking 270,000 nurses and care assistants across the UK for their views on whether to go on strike over pay.

“If the government expects to fill the soaring number of vacant jobs, it must value nursing staff more than”

Janet Davies

They will also be given a separate option of taking “action short of a strike”, including only working contracted hours, demanding to be paid for overtime and not completing duties expected of a higher pay band.

The online vote will remain open until 7 May and the results will be announced at the union’s annual congress in Liverpool next month. However, a separate formal ballot would be required by law ahead of any industrial action.

Last month, the governments in England, Scotland and Wales announced NHS salaries for nurses and other staff on Agenda for Change contracts would increase by just 1% this year, based on recommendations from the independent NHS Pay Review Body.

It follows several years of NHS pay restraint, which unions claimed amounted to a 14% real-terms cut in wages for nurses since 2010, due to rising living costs.

The government has also previously announced its intention to keep public sector pay rises capped at an annual average of 1% until 2020.

“Nurses should not have to fund the NHS deficit from their own pay packets”

Janet Davies

Other health unions – including Unison and the Royal College of Midwives – saw their members take industrial action over NHS wages in 2014, but the RCN decided against joining them. Its members have not been on strike officially in the college’s history.

But Janet Davies, the RCN’s chief executive and general secretary, said if the college’s members wanted a formal ballot “then it will be carried out without delay”.

“If they want to send the government a different message that they are no longer prepared to work unpaid overtime or cover for more senior colleagues, then this is the way to do it,” she said.

“Patients won’t get the care they deserve from a nursing workforce that is short on numbers and low on morale,” she said. “If the government expects to fill the soaring number of vacant jobs, it must value nursing staff more than it has in recent years.

Janet davies

Janet davies

Janet Davies

“Years of real-terms pay cuts have left too many struggling to make ends meet. Nurses should not have to fund the NHS deficit from their own pay packets,” said Ms Davies.

“Whatever nurses decide, it is becoming clear that their goodwill cannot be relied on indefinitely. The government pay cap is fuelling a recruitment and retention crisis that is as damaging for patient care standards as it is for the nurses themselves,” she added.


Readers' comments (21)

  • One of the major causes of the last great recession was lending rates that led to the credit crunch. This is what austerity is supposed to reverse - the amount of national debt. There are often cuts to services but austerity cuts are deeper and longer.

    Current lending rates are higher than the level before the last credit crunch. There's a risk that yearly cuts become a permanent feature. Parts of the NHS have already started to collapse (e.g. GP surgeries in Oxfordshire). I wonder if the NHS will exist for much longer. If it was a patient it would be bed bound and not given much longer to live.

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  • Let me see, nurses are the cause of their own problems sometimes I bet that only a small amount would response to this poll thus giving the unions no encouragement to take action. Apathy, apathy, apathy.

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  • I am all for the strike! There are too many nurses leaving our profession because they cannot afford to live!! We all know you get a better pay working for certain supermarkets with a lot less stress and working for less hours without the responsibility that nurses have. Many nurses are the breadwinner for their families, and are struggling, which is outrageous considering how much training we did to become a nurse and the continuing education we are required to do just to keep up with our profession in our own time. I know lots of other civil servants (teachers, MOD, police, firefighters) who have had much better pay rises than nurses, whilst the Government continue to rely on our good will and passion for our profession. Its not rocket science, pay us more, less nurses leaving and less agency nurse required so more money in the pot to pay us! Its not all about the recession its about the NHS financial bodies organising their budget better, asking patients to pay for their own paracetamol might be a start and save thousands. I could go on as there are loads of savings to be found to find the money for a decent payrise. Ask a nurse, they are used to cost cutting at home and know where to buy all the best bargains!

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  • I voted this morning when it opened. I am sick and tired of nurses been treated like second rate citizens. However we are our own worst enemy we don't stand up and shout. Not only to we let them crap on us we allow them to rub it in.
    So prove that we have a voice VOTE and let them penny pinchers at the department of health now exactly how we feel.

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  • If nures go on strike work will still need to be done or patients will suffer ,the ones not on strike will have even more pressure on them ,might be good to get all those managers on the ward to do some work and office staff to help

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  • Just as the government took no notice of the doctors striking, additionally they will take no notice of nurses striking. We do however need to make a stand before our wage becomes equal to the national living wage! Many nurses have immense responsibilities without the payment to reflect this and this will result in more nurses leaving / retiring early and doing alternate jobs. additionally no young person who is sane minded would consider nursing as a profession now after the years of government abuse! A strike would potential put candidates off further so for the future of anyone considering nursing, I intend to strike as we can't just roll over and let the government continue with this lack of respect, punishing nurses through poor pay and working conditions. If this was teachers, they would have been endlessly striking for years in reponse to this treatment! I don't know any nurse who is happy with their working conditions or pay but I know many who are looking to leave the profession alongside many who have already gone - is this what the government is trying to achieve?

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  • Working above and beyond has become the norm in nursing. We work way over our contracted hrs to provide quality care to our patients because we care. Why should government have the right to decide wether or not we get a pay rise!!!! as long as they get one sod the nhs staff who really do deserve one urrrrrrrhhhhh.

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  • Anthony Johnson

    I voted for this. I will not work in a profession that doesn't fight for itself. Please, my colleagues, stand up and protect yourselves and your patients.

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  • Screw the money Janet we all know the issue is safety and so do you. I'm sorry Janet but the issue is still the question of civil disobedience and what form best it take should it happen. NHS management made it happen all the way to the top and it's their fault 100% that safety has gone to pot. Their the ones who should have stood up to government and sacrificed their jobs for the common good and they didn't. Instead whistleblowers have been sacrificed and where were the unions? How many have been blacklisted Janet - and was your union a part of it?

    We know Unite can not be trusted so why should we trust you?

    If all avenues are spent and nurses human rights are being violated preventing good patient care then civil disobedience is the real question.

    Jeremy Hunt and the civil servants hiding behind are the real enemies of the people.

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  • The issues of civil disobedience is an interesting one - I like to see us occupy every management building in the NHS, NHS England, NHS Improvement and the over extravagant NMC building - lets make it happen Janet.

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