The Royal College of Nursing is “not afraid” to take industrial action – including strike action – over the threat to public sector pensions if members call for it, according to the union’s leader.
Chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter told participants in a Nursing Times webchat on Friday that it was “not correct to say the RCN has a ‘no strike policy’”.
He said while the RCN had never taken strike action its rules were changed in 1995 to allow industrial action provided it did not harm patients or clients.
But he said: “The RCN believes that industrial action should only be the last option after all negotiation has been exhausted.”
He said the college would consult with its members once “complex” pension negotiations between health unions and the government had finished.
Mr Carter said: “Once we have concluded the discussions with the government, we will consult with the members and we will ultimately act in accordance with the members’ wishes. Therefore at this moment in time, nothing is ruled in and nothing is ruled out.”
He said: “We’re not afraid… The RCN is prepared, in conjunction with the membership, to take whatever action we think is merited.”
Negotiations over the future of public sector pensions are ongoing but tensions between union members and the government appear to be becoming increasingly fractious. Unions representing teachers and civil servants held a strike on 30 June over the issue but health unions did not take action.