NHS staff in England will vote on further industrial action as the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) opens a new aggregated strike ballot.
Members of the RCN on Agenda for Change contracts are once again being asked to decide whether union should take more strike action in response to the NHS pay award for 2022-23 and 2023-24 that the Government has chosen to implement.
Unlike the RCN’s previous strike ballot, which was conducted on an employer-by-employer basis, the union is now seeking a country-wide mandate to strike in every NHS employer in England where RCN members work.
RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said that the union had once again been ‘forced to ask our members if they want to take to the picket lines in their fight for fair pay’.
A majority of other health unions have previously voted to accept the Government’s pay offer of a consolidated pay rise of 5% for 2023-24 and a one-off payment of at least £1,644 for 2022-23. This comes on top of an approximate £1,400 increase that was originally given to NHS staff for 2022/23.
However, members of the RCN and Unite both voted to reject the offer, and Ms Cullen says that the pay deal is now ‘unfinished business’.
Ms Cullen said in a statement: ‘Ministers have tried to silence them [nurses] through the courts as well as in Parliament but we will continue to make sure their voice is heard through the corridors of power.
‘The NHS is fraying at the edges. To improve care and address the shortage, government must bring more people into nursing and keep them there by paying staff fairly.’
In order to receive a national mandate for strike action at least 50% of all eligible RCN members must vote and a majority of those who vote must say ‘yes’ to strike action.
The RCN says that if the ballot is a success, the resulting strike action could involve more than twice as many nursing staff in twice as many locations than previously.
The college has also expressed concerns over the potential impact of the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, which was voted on in Parliament on Monday.
The RCN said that the measures in the Bill would be ‘curtailing the freedom of nursing staff to take part in lawful industrial action’ and is calling for MPs to support an amendment to ensure nursing staff cannot be sacked for striking.
The ballot will close on Friday 23 June, with results expected to be announced the following week. A new strike period would run until 22 December 2023.