Nurses vote to strike over pay for first time in union’s 106-year history
"Our members will no longer tolerate a financial knife-edge at home and a raw deal at work."
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has announced that thousands of nurses have voted to strike for the first time in its 106-year history.
The nursing industry’s largest union – which represents over 300,000 nurses across the UK – urged its members to vote in favour of striking when the ballot first opened at the start of October, with RCN’s general secretary calling it a “once-in-a-generation chance” to make real change, and now, intention of strike action has officially been confirmed today.
With nurses set to walk out over pay levels and patient safety concerns, the RCN said the strike will affect the majority of NHS employers in the UK.
Strikes will take place at the NHS trusts or health boards that have met the relevant legal requirements, with the union confirming that many of the biggest hospitals in England will see action taken by its members, but others “narrowly missed” the legal turnout thresholds to qualify for action.
Industrial action is expected to begin before the end of this year, according to the RCN – with more detailed plans and timelines expected to be announced shortly.
The RCN says it will ensure strike action is carried out “legally and safely at all times”.
The results of the RCN ballot come amid warnings that nurses are leaving the profession in record numbers, and many are unhappy with working conditions, staff shortages, and ultimately, pay.
The RCN said new analysis by London Economics found that pay for nurses in the NHS has declined at twice the rate of the private sector in the last decade, and that their real-terms earnings are said to have fallen by 6%.
The RCN wants nurses to be given a pay rise in line with the rate of inflation.
On the opening of the ballot, the RCN said explained that it is campaigning for a pay rise of 5% above inflation to “overcome a decade of real-terms pay cuts, support nursing staff through the cost-of-living crisis, and recognise their safety critical skills [as] only by paying nursing staff fairly will we be able to retain existing and recruit new nursing staff to the safety critical roles they do.”
Addressing the results of the vote, Pat Cullen – General Secretary & Chief Executive at the RCN – said: “Anger has become action, and 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.
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“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.”
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