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Ballot set as nurses urged to vote for first ever strike in England and Wales

Postal strike ballot opening 15 September is in response to 4% pay offer rejected as ‘national disgrace’ by RCN
Images of a ballot form filled in and placed in an envelope next to a post box

Postal strike ballot opening 15 September is in response to 4% pay offer rejected as ‘national disgrace’ by RCN

Hundreds of thousands of nurses working in the NHS are being urged to support strike action as the RCN ballots its members next month.

The college said the postal ballot would be ‘a defining moment’ in the history of the profession, as it asks nurses in England and Wales whether they would be willing for the first time ever to take strike action involving a complete withdrawal of labour.

It follows an offer which the government says will mean NHS staff on Agenda for Change contracts

Postal strike ballot opening 15 September is in response to 4% pay offer rejected as ‘national disgrace’ by RCN

Images of a ballot form filled in and placed in an envelope next to a post box
Image: iStock

Hundreds of thousands of nurses working in the NHS are being urged to support strike action as the RCN ballots its members next month.

The college said the postal ballot would be ‘a defining moment’ in the history of the profession, as it asks nurses in England and Wales whether they would be willing for the first time ever to take strike action involving a complete withdrawal of labour.

It follows an offer which the government says will mean NHS staff on Agenda for Change contracts in England receiving a pay rise of 4% or at least £1,400 in 2022-23. But the offer has been branded a ‘national disgrace’ by the RCN as inflation rockets to 9.4%.

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen also said the union had grave concerns about staff pressures and patient safety.

‘Nursing staff will stop at nothing to protect their patients.  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,’ she said.

‘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.’ 

Who can vote in the ballot

The ballot is open to nurses working in the NHS in England and Wales who are members of the RCN. Nurses who are not members of the RCN are not eligible to vote.

The ballot is conducted via postal vote and will open on 15 September and run for four weeks to 13 October.

Nurses are being urged to make sure their home address and employer details are up to date on their membership, and can do so at the following webpage: rcn.org.uk/myRCN

You can join the RCN and vote in the upcoming ballot here: https://www.rcn.org.uk/join-the-rcn/Join

The RCN also announced it has increased its industrial action strike fund to £50 million, up from £35 million. It says the college’s elected council took this decision to provide financial support towards lost earnings if industrial action were to take place.

RCN wants strike ballot to turn the tide on law pay

RCN council chair Carol Popplestone added: ‘After years of underpayment and staff shortages, the fight for fair pay must strengthen. Your vote in the upcoming ballot will be essential to turning the tide on low pay.  

‘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.’

In Scotland the RCN has urged its members to reject their 5% pay offer from the Scottish Government. The indicative ballot, which will determine the appetite for industrial action, has now closed and the results are expected in the coming weeks.

In Northern Ireland a formal pay announcement has yet to be made, but nurses in Northern Ireland made UK history when they went on strike for the first time in 2019.

The Unite union is also balloting around 100,000 NHS workers in England and Wales on whether they wish to accept the ‘miserable’ pay offer or if they want to challenge it through industrial action. The union says the 4% pay increase for staff in middle pay bands is in effect a ‘massive pay cut’ because of soaring inflation. It is recommending its members to vote for industrial action.


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