For the first time in its 106-year history the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is balloting 300,000 of its members about strike action and recommending that they vote in favour.
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Nursing staff protesting More than 300,000 members will receive ballot papers in the post from today, launching the RCN’s biggest strike ballot in its 106-year history.
RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen said: “We are understaffed, undervalued and underpaid. For years our profession has been pushed to the edge, and now patient safety is paying the price. We can’t stand by and watch our colleagues and patients suffer anymore.
“Though strike action is a last resort, it is a powerful tool for change. And we must demand that change. Enough is enough. I urge you to vote ‘yes’ in this ballot.
"The ballot relates to NHS pay. A below inflation NHS pay award has been announced in England and Wales, and a below inflation NHS pay offer has been made in Scotland. In Northern Ireland, we’re still awaiting a pay announcement for HSC staff, meaning members there are once again worse off compared to their colleagues in other parts of the UK.
"Across the board, it’s unacceptable. We’re 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. 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.
“Patient care is at risk because of chronic staff shortages, but nursing staff can’t afford to join or stay in the profession,” added Pat. “There are tens of thousands of unfilled nursing jobs across the UK. Unless governments start to value and pay nursing staff properly, there will be a further exodus, adding more pressure to an overstretched system.”
In England, Scotland and Wales, the law states that strike ballots must attract at least a 50% turnout and the majority must vote yes for strike action to be lawful. It’s therefore vital that every eligible member returns their ballot paper.
“Strike action will be decided by you, and your vote,” said Pat. “At all times it will be legal, responsible and put patient safety first. We went on strike safely in Northern Ireland for the future of nursing. Patients were protected and we achieved pay parity. We can do it again.
"You’re eligible to vote if you work for an NHS employer on an Agenda for Change contract in England, Scotland or Wales, or if you work for the HSC in Northern Ireland. You must check we have your correct home address, employer details and job title so you receive your ballot paper."
Ballot papers are being sent by first class post to eligible members by Civica Election Services. They need to be completed and returned in the freepost envelope as soon as possible to ensure they’re received before the deadline of 12 noon on 2 November. ■