RCN members on Agenda for Change contracts in England and Wales have said they would take industrial action over pay.
The trade union’s indicative ballot results for England showed 89% of members said they’d be willing to take action short of a strike – such as by working contracted hours only – while 54% said they’d be willing to strike, out of the 23% of eligible members who voted.
In Wales, out of the 29% of eligible members voted, 91% said they’d be willing to take action short of strike, while 56% of voters said they’d be willing to withdraw their labour in strike action.
The RCN stressed that before any industrial action goes ahead, a statutory ballot must take place, where at least 50% of members in England and Wales voted to make it valid. Members will be informed before anyone else if such a ballot occurs, it said.
Carol Popplestone, interim chair of RCN Council, said nursing staff do not take industrial action ‘lightly’ but ‘will consider it if it means standing up for patients and their profession’. She also called on politicians to ‘urgently’ recruit and retain more nurses.
She said: ‘Our members feel disrespected and devalued. They are expected to work in unsafe conditions, yet their pleas for help go unanswered. This drives many out of the profession because they are not prepared to put patients at risk.’
The ballots were called after an overwhelming majority of members said the 3% pay award for 2021/22 was ‘unacceptable, in response to another RCN consultation.
The results also come after the RCN members in Scotland voted in favour of industrial action in their indicative ballot over their 4% pay rise. Next week, members of the RCN Scotland board will be meeting the cabinet secretary for health and social care to discuss the results of the ballot.
In the Scottish ballot, nine in 10 polled said they would be willing to take industrial action short of a strike – while six in 10 would go as far as taking strike action.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland announced this week that NHS staff on Agenda for Change contracts will receive the 3% pay rise recommended by the NHS Pay Review Body, following months of delays.