Nurses’ strike: whatever your stance, you deserve respect

With picket lines of nurses likely to be springing up outside NHS workplaces soon, it’s important to remember not every nurse wants – or is able – to take part

Picture: iStock

Tens of thousands of nurses are braced to take strike action in what is being described as a defining moment for the profession.

The prospect of walkouts across the UK in protest at a well-below-inflation pay offer has made international headlines. However, amid all the commentary it must be noted that not everyone voted for the action, which is likely to begin in December.

Scale of approval for industrial action

In England, RCN members working at 131 NHS trusts voted ‘yes’ in their ballot. This represents just under 60% of the total number of the country’s trusts.

Nurses working at all 11 service providers in Northern Ireland and all 23 in Scotland called for strike action. However favourable mood music coming from pay talks in Scotland has meant plans to set strike dates there have been suspended – at least for now. In Wales, all bar one of the 13 boards could see nurses strike.

But clearly there will be many nurses who will not be striking – those, for example, who work in life-preserving services, or in organisations where there can be no strike because of inadequate ballot participation.

There will be others who, for whatever reason, do not want to take part. Nurses who oppose a strike, cannot afford to lose pay or indeed are indifferent to action may feel isolated or wary of sharing their views with more strike-keen colleagues. The converse may be true too of nurses who voted to strike, but work in organisations where the ballot result ran counter to their position.

The position of the NMC

The Nursing and Midwifery Council has reminded registrants that while those legally striking will not face fitness to practise proceedings, the Code continues to apply. Behaviours the Code attempts to instil include treating people fairly and without discrimination – and that covers colleagues with diverse points of view.

All nurses are taking a stand, on or off the picket line, and each one merits equal respect.

Flavia Munn is Nursing Standard editor

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