Nurses represented by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have overwhelmingly voted in favour of strike action in a dispute over fair pay and safe staffing. It will be the first time in their 106 year history that the RCN has taken nationwide strike action, although regionalised strikes have taken place previously.
On their website, the RCN announced the results of the ballot on Wednesday by saying:
“Overall results show members at the majority of NHS employers across the UK have voted to take strike action in their fight for fair pay and safe staffing. Strikes will now take place at the NHS trusts or health boards that have met the relevant legal requirements.
Many of the biggest hospitals in England will see strike action by RCN members but others narrowly missed the legal turnout thresholds to qualify for action.
All NHS employers in Northern Ireland and Scotland will be included and all bar one of the health boards in Wales met the relevant legal thresholds.”
The industrial action is expected to take place before Christmas and could last until next May.
The union had urged more than 300,000 of its members to vote for industrial action over pay in the first statutory ballot on industrial action across the UK in the 106-year history of the Royal College of Nursing.
The RCN has called for its members to receive a pay rise of 5% above the RPI inflation rate, which currently stands at above 12%.
Recent analysis showed an experienced nurse’s salary has fallen by 20% in real terms since 2010, the RCN said, adding that nurses are working the equivalent of one day a week for nothing.
RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive Pat Cullen said:
“I want to thank every member who took part in, or supported, this ballot. You can be very proud. The results are strong and clear.
This is a defining moment in our history, and our fight will continue through strike action and beyond for as long as it takes to win justice for the nursing profession and our patients.
Anger has become action – our members are saying enough is enough. The voice of nursing in the UK is strong and I will make sure it is heard. Our members will no longer tolerate a financial knife-edge at home and a raw deal at work.
Ministers must look in the mirror and ask how long they will put nursing staff through this. While we plan our strike action, next week’s budget is the UK government’s opportunity to signal a new direction with serious investment. Across the country, politicians have the power to stop this now and at any point.
“This action will be as much for patients as it is for nurses. Standards are falling too low and we have strong public backing for our campaign to raise them. This winter, we are asking the public to show nursing staff you are with us.”
The postal ballot took place between 6 October and 2 November and was called following NHS Agenda for Change pay announcements earlier this year, which left experienced nurses 20% worse off in real terms compared to a decade ago.