The RCN is urging all members to vote in favour of strike action across the UK for the first time in its 106-year history, with its industrial action ballot opening today.
Over 300,000 members on Agenda for Change contracts across England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland have until 2 October to decide whether to take the unprecedented move of pushing forward with industrial action over pay, with postal ballots to be received from today.
The RCN has been urging its members to support the strike ballot following the announcement of several below-inflation pay offers for nurses and NHS staff across the UK.
Nurses in England and Wales were offered an average salary increase of 4%, while nurses in Scotland have been offered 5%. Since then, Scottish RCN members have overwhelming voted to reject the pay offer and joined England and Wales in preparing for industrial action.
Before the RCN opened its strike ballot, it had called for a pay award of 5% above inflation, which is currently at 9.9% – but no pay offer approaching this figure has yet been made.
This come as YouGov polling of 1,791 British adults found that 65% of those asked support nurses taking strike action and three-quarters said that there were too few nurses to provide safe care.
And research published today, sponsored by the RCN and conducted by London Economics, suggests that nurses pay has fallen twice as much as private sector pay over the last decade.
Weekly median pay for nurses has fallen 6% in real terms, according to this analysis, whereas median pay among UK private sector employees overall has declined by 3.2%.
Likewise, this research also shows that nurses pay has declined at a faster rate than average earnings for all employees in the UK which have fallen by 4.6% over the same time.
In a direct message to RCN members, RCN chief executive Pat Cullen said: ‘This is a once in a generation chance to improve your pay and combat the staff shortages that put patients at risk. Governments have repeatedly neglected the NHS and the value of nursing. We can change this if together we say ‘enough is enough’.
‘Record numbers are feeling no alternative but to quit and patients pay a heavy price. We are doing this for them too. I have spoken with hundreds of you directly in recent weeks – it’s clear we need urgent change. Nursing is the best job in the world. Protect it with your vote.’
The RCN is also inviting members of the public to co-sign a letter to the Prime Minister from Ms Cullen which says: ‘On behalf of the nursing profession, I implore you to see sense. Protect nursing to protect the public.’
In late 2019 and early 2020, RCN members went on strike for the first time in its history in Northern Ireland, before they voted to accept staffing and pay parity proposals in February 2020 and stopped striking. However, the current ballot is the first UK-wide strike ballot in the college’s 106-year history.