Strike action: some nurses claim RCN postal ballot never arrived

More than 96% of members who voted at one trust responded in favour of industrial action, but were eight votes shy of the 50% turnout threshold required

More than 96% of members who voted at one trust responded in favour of industrial action, but were eight votes shy of the 50% turnout threshold required

Some nurses claim they never received their RCN postal ballot about taking industrial action over pay

Nurses are claiming that RCN postal ballots never arrived as staff at trusts across England miss out on strike action by as little as five votes.

More than 96% of members who voted at Barts Health NHS Trust responded that they are in favour of strike action over pay. However, nurses cannot join industrial action as they were just eight votes shy of the 50% turnout threshold required by law.

Trusts were just a handful of votes short of strike action threshold

Nurses at other trusts were left in the same position, just a handful of votes short of the strike action threshold. Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Trust was just five votes shy of meeting the threshold, while Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust were 44 votes off meeting the required numbers.

Some nurses did not receive postal ballot and voting by trust ‘not effectively communicated’

One band 7 nurse at Barts Health told Nursing Standard that several colleagues on wards had not received their postal ballot. They also claimed the RCN did not make it clear to members that the ballots were being split across employers, rather than at a national level.

‘No one was really aware of voting by trust. That message was not effectively communicated to members,’ she said.

‘It makes you feel like your voice isn’t being heard. I know several nurses on wards that never got their ballots even though they chased the RCN with emails and phone calls. We feel gutted, especially knowing that the margin was so slim.’

There are 3,489 members eligible to vote at the Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs Mile End, Royal London, Whipps Cross, St Bartholomew’s and Newham Hospitals across London.

Under UK law 1,745 of those members would need to vote for a legal mandate to strike, but only 1,737 votes were received. Of those that did vote, 96.5% voted for strike action.

‘Seriously low proportion of RCN reps’ to galvanise members, says nurse

While some people on social media called the poor turn out ‘baffling’ and like ‘turkeys voting for Thanksgiving,’ one nurse said that the problem was the ‘seriously low proportion of RCN reps’ to galvanise members on the ground.

‘What we sorely lack as a trade union is enough reps,’ they told Nursing Standard.

‘The way unions can strongly clear the ballot thresholds is by being organised: having a contact point on every floor, unit, area, clinic and community hub, who can check in that members have voted one by one.

‘Sending RCN staff on ward walks will never be as effective as having lots of reps and activists in workplaces. Other UK unions have a far higher density of reps than the RCN and often clear the thresholds with 70% or 80% of members voting.’

Nurses at trusts that did not meet industrial action threshold could still support strike – RCN

The RCN said that the law only allows postal ballots for industrial action and that RCN Council decided it was better to ballot within each employer on this occasion. They also welcomed anyone interested in becoming a rep to get in touch with them.

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen added: ‘This historic moment was a huge undertaking, and every effort was made to ensure all eligible members had the chance to vote in the ballot.

‘Nursing staff in the majority of employers across the UK have voted for strike action and we are determined to act on that mandate for all members right across the UK.

‘For those places where we did not achieve the threshold for action they should be assured that we join together for the whole of the profession.’

‘It’s a pity, as those that did vote strongly supported strike action. One thing they can do is to support their colleagues in the other organisations that did get the threshold,’ she said.

‘They can support them on the picket lines, they can support them by writing to their MP and they can just keep the pressure on through social media and other methods.’

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