RCN opens pay strike poll for members

RCN opens online poll on whether members are prepared to strike over pay.

The RCN opened an online poll today on whether members would strike over pay.

Some 270,000 RCN members will be asked for their views on NHS pay, two weeks after the governments of England, Scotland and Wales announced below-inflation pay rises.

Formal ballot

The online 'pay poll', which will open at 10am, asks whether members want to strike. A separate, formal ballot would be required by law before any industrial action.

Nurses are given a separate option in the poll of taking ‘action short of a strike’, including only working contracted hours, demanding to be paid for overtime and not completing duties expected of a higher pay band. 

'We're not sabre-rattling'

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: “The government would be wrong to dismiss this as sabre-rattling.

'We have a duty to give nursing staff a voice and show how strongly they feel. If our members want to have a formal ballot on a strike, then it will be carried out without delay. If they want to send the government a different message that they are no longer prepared to work unpaid overtime or cover for more senior colleagues, then this is the way to do it.'

Impact of pay restraint

Nursing Standard last week reported on how the RCN council had voted to ask members about the impact of pay restraint and how the college should respond, including whether members should consider taking industrial action.

The poll closes on Sunday 7 May and the results will be announced at the RCN’s annual congress in Liverpool on May 13-17.

In 2014, RCN members decided against joining other health sector unions in taking industrial action over the government’s NHS pay policy.

Real-terms pay cuts

The college says NHS nurses have suffered a 14% real-terms pay cut since 2010.

Ms Davies added: 'Years of real-terms pay cuts have left too many struggling to make ends meet. Nurses should not have to fund the NHS deficit from their own pay packets.

Goodwill running out

'Whatever nurses decide, it is becoming clear that their goodwill cannot be relied on indefinitely. The government pay cap is fuelling a recruitment and retention crisis that is as damaging for patient care standards as it is for the nurses themselves.'

A Unison spokesperson said it was consulting with local branches over the pay announcements.

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