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Will nurses strike over pay? Anticipation mounts as ballot closes

Results of RCN ballot – which ends at 12 noon today – will show if nurses have met the threshold of votes needed to trigger industrial action

Results of RCN ballot – which ends at 12 noon today – will show if nurses have met the threshold of votes needed to trigger industrial action

The RCN’s ballot on potential strike action over pay closes at 12 noon today, with the results expected in the coming weeks.

Some 300,000 nurses around the UK were asked about their willingness to take part in industrial action, including a withdrawal of labour.

After initially being delayed due to the death of the Queen, the ballot opened on 6 October.

Results of RCN ballot – which ends at 12 noon today – will show if nurses have met the threshold of votes needed to trigger industrial action

Picture: iStock

The RCN’s ballot on potential strike action over pay closes at 12 noon today, with the results expected in the coming weeks.

Some 300,000 nurses around the UK were asked about their willingness to take part in industrial action, including a withdrawal of labour.

After initially being delayed due to the death of the Queen, the ballot opened on 6 October.

Rules of engagement for strike action

There are strict trade union laws that set out legal requirements for industrial action, including a threshold of votes that need to be met.

In England, Scotland and Wales the legislation states that industrial action ballots must attract at least a 50% turnout and the majority must vote yes for action to be lawful.

So, if 100 nurses are eligible to vote, and only 49 turn out for the vote, nurses cannot take industrial action even if all 49 vote in favour.

That means the RCN requires 150,000 ballots to be returned for industrial action to be considered, and most of those ballots would have to be in favour of strike action if a withdrawal of labour is to take place.

Strict laws on voting thresholds that must be met

In England and Scotland, the law also states that for workers whose role involves the delivery of ‘important public services’, trade unions must meet an additional 40% support threshold among all workers eligible to vote, as well as the 50% turnout threshold, for industrial action to be lawful.

This means that if 100 nurses are eligible to vote, at least 50 must turn out to vote, and at least 40 of them must vote in favour of industrial action.

The ballot was triggered by the government’s pay offer of £1,400 – or 4% – in England and Wales, and 5% in Scotland. Nurses in Northern Ireland are yet to be offered a pay increase but will still take part in the ballot.

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: ‘I want to thank members for taking the time to vote in this historic ballot. Your vote is your voice, and we must use that voice.

‘There has never been a more crucial time to fight for safe staffing and fair pay. None of us wants to take industrial action but we’ve been forced into this position after a decade of real-terms pay cuts. We can’t stand by and watch our colleagues and patients suffer anymore. Enough is enough.’

Nurses in Scotland criticise latest pay offer

Last week the Scottish Government put a new pay offer on the table, offering a blanket pay rise of £2,205 backdated to April as ministers attempt to head-off strike action. The government points out that the offer gives nurses a more-than-8% pay increase, and the lowest-paid would see their wages rise by 11%.

But nurses said the new offer does not address fair pay or staff retention, and RCN Scotland urged members to press ahead with the ballot for strike action.


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