Nurses WILL strike before Christmas after union voted in favour

Thousands of nurses WILL strike before Christmas after 100-year-old union’s members voted in favour of first EVER mass NHS walk-out

  • The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) closed its strike action ballot on Wednesday
  • The union is demanding nurses receive a pay rise of 5 per cent above inflation
  • It is set to be the first national strike in the 106-year-old history of the RCN

Thousands of nurses will strike before Christmas after the union’s members voted in favour of a first ever mass NHS walk-out.

Britain’s nursing union, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), closed its historic strike action ballot of its 300,000 members on Wednesday.

The union is demanding nurses receive a cost-of-living pay rise of 5 per cent above inflation which currently sits at 12.3 per cent. 

It is set to be the first national strike in the 106-year-old history of the RCN.

‘This will see the majority of services taken out, and picket lines across the country,’ a union source told The Guardian. 

Graham Revie, chair of the RCN Trade Union Committee (centre), joins nurses at Downing Street, London to hand in the fair pay for nursing petition on November 4

The NHS is also gearing up for potential industrial action from other staffing groups with junior doctors, midwives and non-clinical workers like cleaners and porters also considering union action.  

It comes as NHS hospitals in England were ordered to plan a military-style operation to prepare for protentional devastating strikes this winter.

Officials have been told ensure each part of the service is ready if historic, NHS-wide industrial action goes ahead, an operation called Exercise Arctic Willow.

Widespread industrial action could see thousands of operations and appointments cancelled. 

Tories have warned strikes would be ‘criminal’ and risk lives, though NHS unions dispute this. 

The operation — an extension of usual routine winter exercises carried out by trusts to plan for incidents like flu outbreaks — will take place in mid-November. 

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen has said the Government’s current offer — around £1,400 per nurse, in reality — ‘makes a difference to a nurse’s wage of 72p an hour’.

This, the union argues, is driving nurses to leave the NHS for better paid jobs in retail and hospitality, further exacerbating staff shortages. 

Nurses are just one of the NHS staff groups demanding higher pay than the Government offer, junior doctors are arguing for pay restoration of 26 per cent. NHS staff unions like GMB are arguing all staff should get a 15 per cent pay rise

The RCN is demanding nurses get a salary uplift of five per cent above inflation. This would grant the average nurse, who earns roughly £35,600 each year, an extra £6,150. 

The RCN will be expected to maintain a minimum staffing level to ensure patients have access to emergency care, urgent diagnostic procedures and they are not at risk of death or disability.

Like other workers, NHS staff cannot legally be sacked if they participate in official and lawful industrial action.

Nurses could be joined by midwives later in the year, with the Royal College of Midwives set to launch its own ballot next week.  

The British Medical Association, a union representing 160,000 GPs, consultants, and junior doctors, has also warned industrial action by the profession is ‘inevitable’.

It is set to poll junior doctors — who are demanding the equivalent of a 26 per cent pay rise — in January.

Meanwhile, Unison is asking 350,000 NHS staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including porters, nurses, paramedics and cleaners, to vote in favour of walking out.

NHS data shows efforts to get more nurses into the health service are only barely keeping pace with the number of experienced nurses quitting

A ballot of its 50,000 members in Scotland, which was already under way, has been suspended after a new pay offer.

Fellow NHS staff union, GMB, is demanding NHS staff of all levels including cleaners and porters, get a 15 per cent pay rise, or £2 more per hour, whatever is higher. 

If multiple NHS staff ballots on industrial action are successful it could see thousands of doctors and nurses walk out in protest over their pay in early 2023. 

This would coincide with a busy winter for the NHS with the health service expected to be battered by additional admissions for Covid, flu and other seasonal viruses — combined with higher staff sickness rates and a record backlog. 

Some Tories have described the prospect of industrial action at this time as ‘criminal’ and that it will put lives at risk. 

Steve Turner, Tory commissioner for Cleveland in Yorkshire, said walk-outs risk patient safety and will pile pressure on other busy services, such as the police.

On Monday he told the BBC’s Politics North TV show not all doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals are on ‘the poorest salaries’ and it is unrealistic to offer them an inflation-matching pay bump.

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