Community nurses employed by an independent social business in North East Lincolnshire have voted in favour of strike action, as part of an ongoing fight to secure pay parity with those working for the NHS.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) balloted nurses working for the Care Plus Group over whether they would be willing to take industrial action for better pay and for terms and conditions aligned to those on Agenda for Change contracts in the NHS – and saw 93% who voted saying ‘yes’.
The RCN said that the Care Plus Group, which provides specialist, palliative and end of life nursing care across community settings, had imposed ‘below inflation pay awards’ on its staff and that it had ‘refused to negotiate’ with the college over the 2021 and 2022 pay deals.
The college wants to see community nurses working at the social enterprise given pay, terms and conditions that match those on Agenda for Change in the NHS.
And following the ballot result, which was carried out in July, the RCN said its Yorkshire and the Humber board and committees would now ‘meet to urgently discuss potential next steps’.
The RCN’s regional director for Yorkshire and the Humber, Sarah Dodsworth, said: ‘The ballot result is clear.
‘Our members employed by the Care Plus Group have sent a strong message on how they want us to take forward their campaign for fair pay.’
She added: ‘For far too long, the Care Plus Group have imposed below inflation pay awards.
‘They have refused to negotiate with the RCN on the 2021 and 2022 pay awards.’
Ms Dodsworth said the social enterprise had ‘taken for granted their committed and hard-working nursing staff delivering NHS services to people across North East Lincolnshire’.
‘Despite this, they do not receive pay, terms and conditions that match Agenda for Change in the NHS and the employer continues to ignore the burning issue of pay parity,’ she added.
‘Our members deserve an urgent and fair conclusion to this pay dispute, which properly recognises their skills, experience and commitment to providing the safe and effective care that patients deserve.’
In response, Lisa Revell, chief nurse and deputy chief executive at the Care Plus Group said there had been ‘regular communication and meetings over the last year in relation to pay’ with the RCN, adding that ‘this continues regarding the forthcoming planned strike action’.
She said the organisation was working ‘closely with the RCN to ensure that there will be minimal disruption to services and safe delivery to patients across affected times’.
And she added that the group ‘recognise the impact on staff with rising inflation and the cost-of-living increases and we continue to strive to offer comparable salaries’.
‘We are an independent social business, not part of the NHS, and any pay increases need to be made considering our financial sustainability,’ said Ms Revell.
‘We continue to work closely with Social Enterprise UK who are advocating nationally and with Government for parity for social enterprises in relation to pay.’
The Care Plus Group’s board was also ‘regularly reviewing the financial position and looking at opportunities about future pay in conjunction with our financial sustainability’, she added.
‘We value all staff and appreciate the roles they deliver in supporting our community, often in difficult circumstances,’ she said.
‘We acknowledge that they are facing unprecedented times in relation to taking strike action and continue to support them throughout.’