Only a desperate situation could cause the Royal College of Nursing even to consider strike action.
Now they are actually calling for it!
Nurses need our support
Pat Cullen 4 Aug 2022 Chief Executive and General Secretary
Pat Cullen, RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive, updates members on our work to ensure the nursing profession secures long-term investment from governments across the UK
My overriding priority this week has been to lead the Fair Pay for Nursing campaign and ensure that governments across the UK are in no doubt at how serious we are and why we are balloting many of our members over possible strike action.
If you work for the NHS in England and Wales, you will be asked in the coming weeks to vote in a statutory strike ballot. Scottish members in the NHS have just voted in an indicative ballot too. While in Northern Ireland our members will decide what they would like to do in the absence of an award or executive.
Earlier this week, many of you were angered by Liz Truss who said she would end national pay deals for public sector staff in England if she becomes Prime Minister. She later u-turned and said current levels of public sector pay will be maintained, but it’s too late – she has shown us her true colours. We know that current pay across the NHS and health and social care is brutally unfair on you and not enough to recruit and retain the nursing staff needed.
Just today, another report by MPs called for social care staff to be paid the same as their NHS counterparts. Parity between the two is important – wherever you work, nursing staff deserve a raise.
With the cost of living soaring and below-inflation pay awards given to too many – we are saying enough is enough. Eligible members working for the NHS in England & Wales will be balloted on industrial action via post by law. I would encourage all members to make sure you’ve checked we have the right details for you so we can send you important information, including any postal ballots.
Taking part in industrial action, including strike action, is a democratic right. When strike action was carried out in Northern Ireland at the end of 2019 and early 2020, our members demonstrated that any industrial action can be carried out professionally, safely and with patients and the profession at the heart of all decision making. Taking industrial action is not something we as nursing staff take lightly – but without strong action, change often does not happen.
In Scotland, our ballot on the Scottish Government’s single-year pay offer for NHS staff on Agenda for Change terms and conditions closed today. Thank you to all our members who took part and made your voice heard on the pay offer and told us whether you would personally consider taking industrial action to improve the offer. In the coming days the results will be considered by your elected members on the RCN Scotland Board, RCN Trade Union Committee and RCN Council and we will keep you informed on what happens next. And in Northern Ireland, we are still waiting for a formal announcement on a pay award for 2022-23.
Finally, the Department of Health and Social Care’s Code of Practice for International Recruitment for England was published this week. We responded urging employers to respect and apply the new rules – such as requiring employers to produce evidence to support any international nurse being charged fees to change jobs. What is needed now is for the UK government to clarify how it will ensure the new measures are enforced, especially in the independent sector where nurses and support workers frequently face harassment from rogue employers.
We always value our colleagues from overseas greatly, but we also believe that governments across the UK must also invest in expanding the domestic workforce. Bilateral agreements to ensure all international recruitment is mutually beneficial for countries, professionals and populations should also be introduced. Ministers need to do more to tackle recruitment from ‘red list’ countries which are facing the most significant workforce challenges, and active recruitment is not permitted. While the UK government insists this is not being done proactively, recent data shows a ten-fold increase in recruitment from these countries. International recruitment must be transparent, dignified and ensure that anyone in employment in the UK is free from exploitation.
At last, MPs are joining the calls for action on the NHS staffing crisis, a fully funded work force strategy that meets future needs has still not been produced, but the government response needs to be broader, addressing all the factors that affect capacity within the NHS, including policy on, social care, hospitals bed capacity, buildings and equipment, outsourcing and waste. Many of these areas have been neglected or policy has been misdirected or ineffective.
We need to keep the pressure up on all these issues as the NHS cannot deliver comprehensive care without this wider plan.
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NHS pay offer: ministerial influence trumps the evidence
In the original leaflet distributed to every household for the launch of the NHS on 5th of July 1948, its founding principles were set out. It said,
Everyone- rich or poor, man, woman or child can use it or any part of it. There are no charges, except for a few special items. There are no insurance qualifications. But this is not a charity. You are all paying for it, mainly as taxpayers, and it will relieve your money worries in times of illness.
The NHS went on to become one of the best health care services in the world. But under this Conservative Government it has been driven to breaking point.
The National Health Service is currently recruiting Health care Assistants.