Summer of protest announced over pay restraint

A ballot will be called if a new government after the June general election does not scrap the cap on nursing pay, RCN congress has decided following the results of a pay poll.

Nurses could be set for a summer of protests across the UK after an RCN poll showed strong support for strikes over pay restraint

RCN chair of council Michael Brown addresses RCN congress. Picture: ©2017 john houlihan

The college warned that unless the next government scraps the 1% cap on pay it will hold a ballot on industrial action later this year, threatening the first ever strikes by members.

An emergency resolution in favour of a summer of planned protest activity, followed by an industrial action ballot, was overwhelmingly passed at RCN congress in Liverpool on Sunday. 

It is not yet clear what the protests will involve, but is likely to involve marches, the RCN has said.

Appetite for action

RCN chair of council Michael Brown proposed the emergency resolution after announcing the results of an indicative pay poll which tested members' appetite for industrial action.

More than 52,000 members took part in the online poll, with nine out of 10 supporting action short of a strike, while almost four out of five backed strikes.

Preempting concerns for patients during any potential industrial action, Mr Brown said: 'If we don't stand up now, can we ensure future patients will be safe. Can we guarantee education of future students? Can we guarantee an NHS free at the point of delivery for our children?'

Mr Brown continued: 'If the next Westminster government want a "strong and stable" nurse workforce, scrap the cap!'

A total of 52,434 of the 270,000 RCN members who were eligible to vote took part in the pay poll. Another ballot would have to be held before any action takes place.

'Staff undervalued'

Passionate speeches were made in favour of the resolution at congress, including healthcare assistant Leslie Green.

In an emotional speech, Mr Green, who had come to congress after working a night shift, challenged health secretary Jeremy Hunt: 'Mr Hunt, come and work a shift with me or any of my colleagues, then tell me or them, they are not worth more than 1%.'

He said he was working 50 hours a week and struggling to make ends meet. He added: 'I am tired of being undervalued. It's time to make a stand.'

Vice chair of RCN congress BJ Waltho called for members to 'rise up' and show the government how serious nurses are.

'I don't know where Jeremy Hunt or Theresa May are this week, when they should be in this room listening to us,' she, said to big cheers.

Doctor support

The British Medical Association, representing junior doctors, voted on Satuday to support any industrial action by the RCN.

Mr Brown said he hoped other unions, including Unison, Unite and the GMB, would support the RCN.

Just two people voted against the resolution and four abstained. There were no speakers against the motion, despite congress chair Stuart McKenzie offering to speak on behalf of anybody with a different view.


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