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'Summer of protest' over nurse pay launches tomorrow

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Nurses from across the UK are to take part in a series of demonstrations tomorrow marking the start of a “summer of protest” over pay.

Tomorrow’s official launch of events, which are being organised by the Royal College of Nursing over the government’s 1% cap on annual pay rises for most NHS staff, will include a demonstration outside the Department of Health’s offices in London and a rally at the Scottish Parliament.

“As a pay champion, you will speak with colleagues, family and friends about the impact of the pay cap”

Royal College of Nursing

In Wales the RCN will host an event at its headquarters in Cardiff tomorrow to draw together plans for a campaign that will gain public support, while union members in Northern Ireland will lobby their MPs later this week.

The lunchtime demonstrations outside the DH in London and Scottish Parliament will occur alongside events at least 20 further locations.

A protest outside the regional headquarters of NHS England in Birmingham is planned and in Oxfordshire the RCN will meet nurses on wards at Littlemore Hospital and the John Radcliffe Hospital to raise awareness of the campaign.

Other regions with planned activities include Milton Keynes, Basildon, Brighton, Kettering, East Kent, Suffolk, Reading, Watford, Portsmouth, Ipswich, Truro, Southampton, Bridgwater, Luton, Bristol, Huntingdon, Avon, Poole, Torquay and Swindon.

In addition, ahead of the campaign launch, nurses in Norfolk will attend a candlelit vigil tonight at 10pm at the Edith Cavell Memorial in Norwich to “show that, at a time when most people are winding down for the night, a quiet army of nursing staff are heading to work to keep health services afloat 24 hours a day,” according to the local RCN branch.

Across the UK the RCN will call on local members to become “pay champions” to help spearhead efforts in their region.

“As a pay champion, you will speak with colleagues, family and friends about the impact of the pay cap. And you will work with your regional or country office to support the campaign in your area,” states the RCN in guidance on its website.

The RCN will also be encouraging nurses and members of the public to write to their MPs about the impact of the government’s pay restraint policy.

Nurses and other staff under the Agenda for Change pay system saw their pay increased at below-inflation rates in 2010, frozen from 2011 to 2013 and since 2014 limited to 1% annual increases.

In 2015 the government announced public sector pay would be capped at 1% on an annual basis for a further four years.

At the RCN’s annual congress in May nurses agreed to carry out protest activities over the summer if the new government failed to put a stop to pay restraint in the NHS.

It followed a poll among RCN members that revealed 91% of the 52,000 NHS nurses 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.

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