Nurses Back Industrial Action Over 3% Pay Award

Peter Russell

December 03, 2021

A majority of nurses in England and Wales have signalled their willingness to take industrial action, or even to strike, in support of higher pay, in a ballot by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

In July, the Government accepted the recommendations of the independent NHS Pay Review Body and the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration, which recommended a 3% pay rise backdated to April 2021 for NHS staff in England, including nurses.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it meant an additional £1000 a year for the average nurse.

In Support of a 12.5% Pay Rise

The RCN has called for a 12.5% uplift to make up for a decade in which it says pay has failed to keep pace with rising living costs, and to encourage more people to apply for unfilled nursing posts.

In an indicative ballot of members last month, 89.3% of respondents in England said they would be prepared to take part in industrial action, while 53.9% of respondents said they would be prepared to take part in strike action.

In Wales, 90.6% of respondents said they would be prepared to take part in industrial action, while 55.9% said they would be prepared to strike.

In England, 23.2% of eligible members took part in the ballot, while Wales saw a   29.1% response rate.

Nurses Feel 'Disrespected'

Carol Popplestone, interim chair of the RCN Council, said: "Nursing staff do not consider industrial action lightly, but they will consider it if it means standing up for patients and their profession."

She said that the current pay offer had left nurses feeling "disrespected and devalued" at a time when the Government should be concentrating on recruiting and retaining more nurses.

Nurses' Views in Scotland and Northern Ireland

In Scotland, almost 30% of RCN members working in the NHS responded to the ballot. Of those, 90% said they would be willing to take industrial action short of a strike, while 6 in 10 members said they would be willing to withdraw their labour in strike action.

Julie Lamberth, chair of the RCN Scotland Board, said: "The thought of taking industrial action does not sit well with nursing staff. So the response to our indicative ballot demonstrates how difficult things are within the NHS."

The RCN said it would be consulting its members in Northern Ireland, after the Minister for Health there announced he would implement a 3% pay award for all Agenda for Change staff working in health and social care.

Graham Revie, RCN trade union committee chair, said the ballot results sent "a strong signal to governments that the nursing voice must be heard and acted on".

Industrial action short of strike action could include activities such as starting and finishing shifts on time, taking all allocated breaks, or refusing to work overtime.

Strike action would involve withdrawal of labour from the workplace.

In response the DHSC said there were almost 10,000 more nurses compared with last year.

A spokesperson said: "NHS staff – from doctors and nurses to paramedics and porters – have rightly received a 3% pay rise this year, which has increased nurses' pay by £1000 on average.

"Last year's pay rise followed recommendations from the independent pay review bodies and we have now asked them again for next year's recommendations for staff in scope.

"We will consider their reports carefully when we receive them."

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