The RCN will ballot members in England on Agenda for Change contracts on whether to take industrial action in relation to the Government’s recent pay award.
The Department for Health and Social Care announced on 19 July that NHS nurses in England would receive a pay rise of around 4%, increasing the basic salary from £35,600 to £37,000. Newly qualified nurses received a slightly larger raise of 5.5%, taking the base salary to £27,055.
The RCN has previously warned that a previously reported raise of 5% would not be ‘remotely acceptable’ and branded the 4% pay rise as a ‘grave mistake by ministers’.
With inflation currently hitting a 40-year high of 8.2% today, this pay rise is a cut in real-terms pay, as the UK faces a deepening cost-of-living crisis.
In an emergency meeting immediately following the Government’s announcement, elected members of the RCN council voted to ballot members in England on whether industrial action should be taken.
In an email sent to nurses across the UK Pat Cullen, RCN secretary general, said: ‘Today the UK Government confirmed its pay award for NHS staff in England for the year 2022-23. This is yet another pay cut in real terms and we’re clear that nursing deserves better.
‘After years of underpayment and staff shortages, the fight for fair pay must continue. Your voice in the upcoming ballot will be essential to turning the tide on low pay.
‘This pay award does not help you with the rising cost of living – inflation is rising much higher. It will do nothing to help to recruit or retain more nursing staff where you work. It does not recognise the skill and responsibility of the job you do. Sadly, it will not keep patients safe.’
For the ballot to lead to industrial action, there must be at least a 50% turnout of all members eligible to vote and a majority of those who do vote must approve the industrial action.
However, since nurses are workers whose role involves the delivery of ‘important public services’, there is an additional requirement that 40% of the total number of eligible voters must approve the industrial action for the ballot to pass.
This means that if there were 100 nurses, 50 must turn out and vote and at least 40 must vote in favour. If 50 turned out to vote and 39 voted in favour, it still would not be lawful to go ahead with industrial action even though a majority of those who voted supported this.
Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said in a tweet that ‘the Government has honoured the pay review bodies’ recommendations. With the ongoing cost of living pressures which are already causing difficulties for many staff, I completely understand why this will be unwelcome news for many #teamCNO colleagues.
‘My priority continues to be doing all we can to support our hugely dedicated and skilled workforce and I will continue to encourage organisations to consider putting additional cost of living support packages in place.’