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Unison launching legal action against NMC over strike warning


Unison is taking legal action against the Nursing and Midwifery Council over “intimidating” claims that nurses who strike could be in breach of its code of conduct.

The move comes as millions of public sector workers are being balloted over whether to take part in a “day of action” starting on 30 November in protest at pension reform.

The government backed plans to scrap final salary pensions, raise the retirement age and increase employee contributions, before negotiations with unions had concluded.

Nursing and Midwifery Council chief executive and registrar Dickon Weir-Hughes said although the regulator respected nurses’ “democratic right to express support for their trade unions”, “this must never be at the expense of the people that they are caring for”.

He added: “In considering how to respond to calls for industrial action, nurses and midwives must ensure that their actions do not jeopardise good standards of care.”

He also reminded nurses that their registration could be at risk if they failed to comply with the NMC’s code of conduct.

This has prompted Unison to announce it will lodge an injunction against the regulator on Monday. If Unison wins, the NMC will be forced to retract its statement on the basis it acted beyond its powers.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “We have taken legal advice, and in our view, the NMC’s threatening statement was wrong. If members choose to take lawful industrial action they will not be in breach of the code of conduct.”

“We will not allow our members to be threatened or intimidated, and we are taking legal steps to challenge the NMC.”

Meanwhile, NHS Employers last week wrote to human resources directors advising them to take on board the NMC’s code of conduct.

It has produced a template “policy statement” on industrial action for trusts to use, which states “payments under productivity bonus schemes may be adversely affected” and annual leave entitlement will not accrue for staff who strike.


Readers' comments (17)

  • Outstanding! A union actually standing up for Nurses and the NMC being put in it's place all in the same day! Is it my birthday?

    Absolutely outstanding!

    Take notes Carter, you and your ineffective RCNs time is up!

    Bring on this strike action, and further strike action after that so we can take charge of our profession again and WIN the pay, the pension and the working conditions we deserve!

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  • Now I know I did the right thing joining UNISON! With all the bad press going around this is just what we need, all I can say to UNISON is thank you and please keep it up : )


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  • Why anyone is still paying their RCN subs is beyond me as we’ve seen total inaction on this and every other issue that affects those on the shop floor. I’m really pleased that I ditched the RCN and joined Unison. I don’t particularly want to strike, but it is nice to know that there is at least one union who has its members interests at heart. Thank you Unison for sticking up for your Registered Nurse members!

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  • Good on ya unison, who have the balls to do something positive and hard hitting without worrying about being told off by the government.

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  • tinkerbell

    Thank you Unison, thank you. The RCN should be doing this for their nurses, but sadly the RCN have shown they are all talk and no walk.

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  • Hell yes. Fight the power!

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  • Excellent UNISON.

    Keep up the good fight while there is still something to fight for.

    Whether staff support industrial action or not is nothing to do with the regulator(NMC), but is a legal right, hard won over many decades.

    (To the NMC)Just take our exorbitant registration fees and keep quiet on the big issues, as you usually do.

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  • Actually, think again all of you about what it is that the NMC has said. They have not said don't strike but take care about the action you take that would not infringe your code of conduct. Firstly, not let patient care suffer at the expense of striking. Secondly, I would urge you - do not risk getting a criminal record as this could affect your ability to work as a nurse and then you would get no pension at all. Thirdly, and this is nothing to do with the NMC. Do you really think that striking will work? This Government will do exactly what it likes whether we strike or not and I reckon we will lose even more respect from the public if we strike. Personally, we are being targeted because the NHS is a drain on the Government. However, we need to make savings sensibly, prevent wasted expenditure and perhaps then we will not get posts frozen. We need to be professional about this. I agree that I think the RCN needs to be more active in negotiating for reasonable pay and conditions.
    As for the NMC registration being exhorbitant - no true registered profession gets away with not paying a fee annually. Doctors, legal people, accountants etc. all have to make sure they are registered. We are professionals and as such, need to be regulated and therefore it provides protection for ourselves and for our clients. Otherwise there will be rogue nurses all over the place and we will bear the brunt of mistakes. Unfortunately, this Govenment wants to bankrupt the NHS so that it can tender more out to private companies. By striking you will find that it will just give them more determination to get rid of us, hence the pensions will go anyway. Just be VERY, VERY wary of striking...

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  • I am not sure about the above comment. I think that patients are suffering now, because i do not think there are enough nurses in post to provide care patients actually need. In fact, i dont think there are enough nurses in post that will facilitate the time necessary for them to look after themselves. I have noticed that the workload is so great that they cannot get away on time, for training, to take their breaks-as examples. I am wary of striking for one reason-that as dictated by the NMC-that i may lose my job if i do strike. If it weren't for that, i'd be out on the picket line. But that scares me. I am pleased that Unison are tackling this and defending the rights of nurses as people as well as nurses as nurses and i am glad i left the RCN. I note their silence on this issue. when i left they expressed no interest in why i left. I think that says it all.

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  • Anonymous | 10-Oct-2011 12:42 pm first of all the threat from the NMC was pretty implicit, they stopped one step short of saying 'strike and we'll have your career', but the meaning was there. Just see how quickly they have bactracked though now they have been threatened with legal action!!! UNISON are still pushing though and are now demanding an explanation of why their tactics were so threatening and heavy handed! Outstanding UNISON! It just goes to show how much power we can have with a good union behind us!

    Secondly, I disagree on almost everything else you said about everything, including striking. What would you rather do? Nothing and let the profession, our pay, our working conditions and patient care get even worse???

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