The RCN will ask members working for the NHS in England and Scotland on Agenda for Change contracts whether they are willing to take industrial action over pay, it has announced.
Members in England will be asked in an indicative ballot in the coming weeks if they are willing to take action short of a strike – such as working contracted hours only – or strike action following the Government’s 3% pay award. More information, including a ballot date, will be available soon.
The decision to consult members in England was made by the Trade Union Committee, also factoring views of the RCN English regional board. It comes after 92% of eligible RCN members called the 3% pay uplift for NHS staff in England ‘unacceptable’ last month.
RCN Council chair Carol Popplestone said: ‘We are a patient safety critical profession but currently forced to operate with tens of thousands of missing nurses – patient care is suffering.
‘Only by paying nursing staff fairly will you stop experienced staff from leaving and encourage the next generation to join a fantastic career,’ she added.
The RCN said the indicative ballot results will not formally authorise industrial action, but will inform what members do next. Although it stressed that industrial action is a ‘last resort’, it added that staffing shortages are ‘causing unacceptable risk to patients and staff’.
Graham Revie, RCN Trade Union Committee chair, said: ‘Today’s decision was taken by members, for members. Nursing staff from across the country are leading this campaign from the front and the RCN Trade Union Committee has listened to the views of members who voted.
‘Our members were very clear in telling the Prime Minster that his NHS pay deal was completely unacceptable – it fails the test of fairness and it fails to address the current crisis by not taking action to safely staff our wards and clinics.’
The RCN will also make an announcement on their pay campaign in Wales ‘in the coming weeks’, after the majority of NHS members in the country also said the 3% pay award was ‘unacceptable’.
In Northern Ireland, health minister Robin Swann has accepted NHS Pay Review Body recommendations for a 3% pay rise. But nurses must wait to see if the necessary additional funding will be made available by the Northern Ireland Executive, with a decision expected this month.