The Royal College of Nursing has released the results from a recent ballot regarding taking action to fight for fair pay within the healthcare industry.
An indicative ballot asks union members whether they personally would be willing to take any form of industrial action. This was actioned after the 3% NHS pay award for 2020/21 was announced and it was deemed as unacceptable by members.
In England, 23% of RCN members voted, with 89% of those saying they’d be willing to take action short of striking. 54% of voters said they’d be willing to withdraw their labour in strike action.
Industrial ‘short of strike action’ could include employees starting and finishing shifts on time, taking all allocated breaks, not working overtime; these measures are often referred to as ‘working to rule’.
A statutory industrial action ballot would be required before any industrial action could take place. For a ballot to be valid, at least 50% of members in England and Wales would need to turn out to vote. However, in England just 23% eligible members took part in the ballot, while in 29% did so in Wales. Therefore, no legal action can be taken just yet.
The elected representatives on the RCN’s Trade Union Committee are now carefully considering the results to decide on next steps, taking in consideration the views and feedback from the RCN English regional boards and the recommendations of the RCN Wales Board.
Commenting on the results in England and Wales, RCN Trade Union Committee Chair Graham Revie, said: “Ministers must stop pulling the wool over the public’s eyes and put patients’ interests above political point-scoring.
“Politicians boast about how many more nurses they’ve recruited but it’s just one side of the story,” he said. “Tens of thousands of unfilled vacancies means patients can’t get the care they deserve.”
Interim chair of RCN Council Carol Popplestone added: “Nursing staff do not consider industrial action lightly, but they will consider it if it means standing up for patients and their profession.”
She urged ministers to “urgently boost our ranks by recruiting and retaining more nurses” in the interest of patient safety. Nursing staff “feel disrespected and devalued”
“They are expected to work in unsafe conditions, yet their pleas for help go unanswered,” she said. “This drives many out of the profession because they are not prepared to put patients at risk.”
Across the UK, the fight for fair pay is ongoing, and won’t stop until our safety critical profession is respected and protected. Please ensure to stay engaged and keep campaigning - for yourself, your profession, and your patients.