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Turnout ‘essential’ for industrial action ballot, says RCN

Turnout ‘essential’ for industrial action ballot, says RCN

RCN members have been warned that their turnout is ‘essential’ to the success of an industrial action ballot proposed in reaction to the Government’s 4% pay award.

At an online meeting last night, heads of the RCN – including chief executive Pat Cullen and RCN council chair Carol Popplestone – came together with members to discuss what steps to take over the average pay award of around 4% for nurses.

Addressing attendees, Colin Poolman, interim director, RCN Scotland stressed that turnout is ‘critical’ to an upcoming industrial action ballot for members in England.

He explained: ‘The level of turnout plays a mandate and sends the strongest possible message. Our strength is in our numbers.’

Members in England will be asked whether they would take industrial action and whether they would take action short of strike action, or strike action itself, he added.

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 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, industrial action would not be lawful even though a majority of those who voted supported it.

‘Your vote is your voice’

The meeting came just a day after the DHSC announced that pay for the average nurse on an Agenda for Change contract would increase by around 4% from £35,600 to £37,000, and 5.5% for a newly qualified nurse.

Also speaking, Denise Kelly, chair RCN trade union committee: ‘Our profession has been disrespected for long enough. As a member of a trade union, your vote really is your voice. It’s the only way the RCN can keep on fighting for you… Nursing is not going to take this on any longer.’

Ms Kelly also acknowledged that many RCN members are not on Agenda for Change contracts and are instead employed in the independent sector.

On what would be done for those not affected by the latest pay award, Ms Kelly said: ‘We know that 40% of our membership is employed in the independent health and social care sector, and their voice is equally important

‘They deserve pay, terms and conditions that at least match their colleagues in the NHS and that is something that we are strategising and campaigning for.’

Mrs Kelly also stated that a pay rise for NHS nurses could create ‘a haemorrhage of employees in the independent sector coming back to work in the NHS’ if the private sector did not raise pay correspondingly.

The RCN previously pointed out that when taking into account that consumer price inflation has hit a 40 year high of 9.4% this was, in fact, a real terms pay cut for nurses already under pressure from the cost of living crisis.

NHS England had previously warned that the NHS had no budget for a pay increase of more than 3%, and that any increase above this level would have to be funded by cuts to services.