Nurses in England and Wales to be balloted on strike action next month – Nursing Times

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The Royal College of Nursing has today announced the dates for a strike action ballot in England and Wales.
A postal ballot will open on 15 September for four weeks and will ask RCN members within the NHS in England and Wales if they would like to take industrial strike action, which includes a complete withdrawal of labour.
“A lifetime of service must never mean a lifetime of poverty”
Pat Cullen
If it is voted for and receives the required response rate, it will be the first ever strike by RCN members in England or Wales.
The ballot comes in response to the 2022-23 pay award which saw nurses on Agenda for Change contracts given an increase of £1,400.
Calculations by Nursing Times show that the pay for a newly registered nurse at the start of Band 5 will rise from £25,655 to £27,055 – just over 5%.
Meanwhile, a nurse at the start of Band 6 will see their pay increase by just over 4%, from £32,306 to £33,706.
Staff at the top of Bands 6 and 7 will receive more than £1,400 so that their pay rise is equal to 4%, according to the governments in England and Wales.
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The RCN had called for a pay rise for nursing staff of 5% above inflation, which is currently at 11.8%.
It therefore described the pay award as “a national disgrace” and claimed that experienced nurses would be more than £1,000 worse off in real terms.
It is now recommending hundreds of thousands of its members support strike action in its ballot next month and has increased its industrial action strike fund to £50m, up from £35m, to help provide financial support towards lost earnings during strike action.
This will be an official ballot which could lead to strike action if voted for and if it achieves a 50% response rate from the membership, as required by law.
This is different to an indicative ballot, similar to those held following the 2021-22 pay deal, which found support for industrial action but had response rates lower than that required for an official ballot.
Industrial strike action can take various forms in different organisations, this could include work-to-rule, in which nurses do no more than the minimum required by the rules of their contract, including the number of hours they work. It could also include complete withdrawal of labour.

Pat Cullen
While the RCN said it believed strike action should always be a last resort, it warned the current staffing crisis was causing “unacceptable risk” to patients and staff.
Pat Cullen, RCN general secretary and chief executive, said: “Nursing staff will stop at nothing to protect their patients.
“Staff shortages are putting patient safety at risk and the government’s failure to listen has left us with no choice but to advocate for strike action.
“A lifetime of service must never mean a lifetime of poverty. Ministers refusal to recognise the skill and responsibility of the job is pushing people out of the profession.”
Ms Cullen urged the prime minister to “change course urgently”.
The ballot also comes after a recent YouGov survey showed that 60% of the public either strongly or somewhat supported nurses taking industrial action, versus 32% that either strongly or somewhat opposed.
The college went on strike for the first time in its history in Northern Ireland in 2019.
Carol Popplestone, chair of RCN Council, said that the votes in the upcoming ballot will be “essential to turning the tide on low pay”.
In an address to members, she said: “This year’s pay award does not help you with the rising cost of living. It will do nothing to help to recruit or retain more nursing staff where you work and will not keep patients safe.”

Carol Popplestone
She urged members to check that the college had their up-to-date home addresses and employer details so they are able to cast their vote.
Meanwhile, Helen Whyley, director of the RCN in Wales, said: “The college doesn’t take this lightly. Industrial action should always be a last resort.
“Our members are telling us that the cost of living is making them seriously reconsider staying in a profession that they love.”
Wales was also in “the middle of a nurse staffing shortage” which is “putting patients at risk and adding pressure to an already overworked and overstretched nursing profession”, she added.
“Nursing staff are exhausted, yet they continue to go above and beyond, providing the best care they can for their patients, every single day,” said Ms Whyley.
“Without the incredible work of nursing staff, patients wouldn’t get the care they need. The time for talk is over.”
The England and Wales RCN ballot will close on Thursday 13 October 2022.
In Scotland, the RCN had urged its members to reject a 5% pay offer from the Scottish government for the majority of NHS staff working on Agenda for Change contracts.

Helen Whyley
An indicative ballot, which asked if members would take industrial action, has now closed and RCN Scotland has pledged to “very carefully consider” the results.
Whereas in Northern Ireland, a formal pay announcement is yet to be announced.
In response to the strike ballot news, a Welsh Government spokesperson said: “It is always disappointing when any members of our workforce reach a point where they feel that they have to ballot for industrial action.
“During an intense cost of living crisis and with predictions of further inflation and recession, we understand the concerns of our workforce about how their standards of living may be eroded.”
The increases announced in England and Wales for 2022-23 are higher than the 3% budgeted for by the UK Government, meaning the extra money needs to be found from within existing NHS budgets.
The Welsh Government spokesperson stressed there were limits to how far they could go to address the pay concerns in Wales, but said they continued to press for the additional funding needed.
They added: “We will seek to maintain our conversations in social partnership with our workforce representatives in Wales, and ensure that we have plans in place to maintain patient safety in the event of industrial action.”
The Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We hugely value the dedication and contribution of NHS nurses, and are working to boost recruitment, training and retention to ensure the NHS has a long-term sustainable nursing workforce.”
They cited their commitment to recruiting 50,000 more nurses, and reiterated that they had given NHS workers, including nurses, a pay rise of at least £1400 this year.
They added: “We want a fair deal for staff and we know that very high inflation-driven settlements would have a worse impact on pay packets in the long run than proportionate and balanced increases now.
“Industrial action is a matter for unions, and we urge them to carefully consider the potential impacts.”
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