Nurses vote against strike over 3% pay increase from No10

Nurses in England and Wales said in a union vote today they would support a strike over the government’s “unacceptable” wage increase proposal of 3 percent.

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have voted overwhelmingly in favor of industrial action as a warning shot to No. 10 over their anger over pay.

About 90 percent of nurses said they’re willing to do the bare minimum their contact requires, known as “work to rule.”

This means that shifts start and end on time, take full breaks and refuse to work overtime.

The government previously offered nurses a 1 percent pay increase, which unions described as “a slap in the face” to the profession. But the government later increased its offer to 3 percent in what it described as recognizing the efforts of the staff during the pandemic.

However, unions said it still amounted to a “real wage cut”, citing rising inflation.

In the new vote, more than half of nurses also said they were willing to take the ultimate step of going on strike, which would cause them to resign.

Heading into winter with a new and potentially more contagious and vaccine-resistant Covid variant, the move could put a significant strain on the health service.

However, the College has not indicated when this could take place and the timing of the union action would require another vote.

Even nurses working to rule could hugely disrupt NHS services, as the health service’s own staff survey shows that more than 60 per cent of nurses work unpaid overtime on a weekly basis.

The nurses’ ballot comes just a week after England voted in support of union action over a government plan to increase the number of face-to-face appointments.

The Royal College of Nursing has warned that the threat of union action by nurses over pay has increased. Nursing Association members said in a vote they would be ready to support action, including and up to a strike

While the vote is indicative, meaning it is intended to gauge the views of members rather than act as a binding mandate, it is a step towards union action by nurses in England and Wales.

Only about one in four nurses voted in the ballot and if an official union vote was to be held, a minimum turnout of half of the RCN membership would be required to be valid.

Full results of the Royal College of Nursing vote

Results for England:

  • 89.3 percent of nurses said they would be willing to participate in union action without strike action
  • 53.9 percent of those surveyed said they were willing to participate in strike action
  • 23.2 percent of eligible members voted in the ballot

Results for Wales:

  • 90.6 percent of respondents said they would be willing to participate in industrial action, excluding strike action.
  • 55.9 percent of respondents said they were willing to participate in strike action.
  • 29.1 percent of eligible members voted in the ballot

The union said it has not yet decided on the next steps, but the results would determine the next step of its wages campaign.

Commenting on the results, nurse leaders said members felt “disrespected and devalued” about the 3 percent offer and that it would be good to tackle the massive job openings for staff.

However, the government has pushed for a 3 per cent pay rise, which it says has “justified” the increase in nurses’ salaries by an average of £1,000 a year.

The RCN, like many other NHS staff associations, disagrees and is campaigning for its members to get a 12.5 percent annual pay increase.

Speaking about today’s results, the interim head of the RCN council Carol Popplestone said: ‘Nurses don’t take union action lightly, but they will consider it if it means standing up for patients and their profession.’

Ms Popplestone argued that nurses should pay to attract more people to the profession, with a lack of staff putting patients at risk and pushing more staff out the door.

“To reduce the risk to patients, politicians urgently need to strengthen our ranks by recruiting and retaining more nurses. Our members feel disrespected and devalued,” she said.

“They are expected to work in unsafe conditions, but their requests for help remain unanswered. This drives many out of the profession because they are not willing to put patients at risk.’

While NHS data indicates there are about 10,000 more nurses in health care than last year, there are still nearly 40,000 nurse vacancies in England alone, about one in 10 posts.

The chair of the RCN’s Trade Union Commission, Graham Revie, said the government must act, and act quickly.

Nurses in Northern Ireland took union action over pay in late 2019, including measures to take measures such as leaving on time, taking full breaks and refusing extra shifts

Nurses in Northern Ireland took union action over pay in late 2019, including measures to take measures such as leaving on time, taking full breaks and refusing extra shifts

“Ministers must stop frightening public opinion and putting patients’ interests above political scoring,” he said.

GPs vote to support union action amid face-to-face row

GPs in England have voted to support industrial action over the government’s plan to encourage personal appointments.

Eight in ten doctors said they would be happy not to provide data on the number of patients they see in person and refuse to write vaccination waiver letters.

The British Medical Association (BMA) vote found that nearly nine in ten said they would not comply with the contractual obligation for the highest-earning GPs to publish their salaries.

dr. Farah Jameel, the new BMA chairman, said today the results show that GPs and practice staff are ‘frustrated, struggling and desperate for change’.

The union said it has yet to decide on next steps and whether to proceed with union action.

If the union action goes ahead, it will be the first among medics since the doctors in training went on strike five years ago due to changes in their contracts.

The poll of nearly 2,000 GP practices in England was prompted by a £250 million package of measures to provide patients with more face-to-face consultations with GPs. Sajid Javid’s blueprint included a scheme that would essentially “name and shame” underperforming operations.

The health secretary’s plan, released in October, outlined that practices could use the extra money to hire more deputies and use other medical staff to see more patients in person.

The plan requires doctors to see people in person unless there’s a good reason not to, and to share practice-level data on how many patients they see during their surgeries.

“Politicians brag about how many nurses they’ve recruited, but it’s only one side of the story. Due to tens of thousands of unfilled vacancies, patients do not receive the care they deserve.’

But a spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Social Care defended the government’s position on nurses’ pay.

‘NHS staff – from doctors and nurses to paramedics and porters – have rightfully received a 3% pay increase this year, raising nurses’ salaries by an average of £1,000,’ they said.

If nurses in England and Wales work to govern, it will reflect the union action taken by nurses in Northern Ireland at the end of 2019.

A long-running dispute over pay in Northern Ireland led to 15,000 nurses in the country working to rule and eventually going for the picket fence.

It led to the cancellation of appointments and treatments and the closure of wards for minor injuries.

The nurses’ strike had such an impact that Northern Ireland’s government was reinstated in the following weeks as officials met to discuss the crisis, which had previously been suspended following the collapse of a power-sharing agreement in 2017.

The news of nurses backing union action comes a week after doctors also raised a potential conflict with No. 10 over working conditions.

Last week GPs in England voted to support industrial action over a government plan to encourage personal appointments.

Eight in ten doctors said they would be happy not to provide data on the number of patients they see in person and refuse to write vaccination waiver letters.

The British Medical Association (BMA) vote found that nearly nine in ten said they would not comply with the contractual obligation for the highest-earning GPs to publish their salaries.

The union said it has yet to decide on next steps and whether to proceed with union action.

If the union action goes ahead, it will be the first among medics since the doctors in training went on strike five years ago due to changes in their contracts.

The poll of nearly 2,000 GP practices in England was prompted by a £250 million package of measures to provide patients with more face-to-face consultations with GPs. Sajid Javid’s blueprint included a scheme that would essentially “name and shame” underperforming operations.

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