Nurses to launch strikes in weeks after rejecting £2.5bn pay deal
Royal College of Nurses members went against the recommendation of general secretary Pat Cullen to turn down the offer by 54 per cent to 46 per cent on a turnout of just 61 per cent. The decision puts nurses at odds with other NHS workers who voted decisively to accept the joint pay deal. RCN members will now hold a round-the-clock 48-hour strike from April 30 to May 2.
The walkout will hit emergency departments, intensive care units and cancer care for the first time as the union intensifies its action.
In the letter to Health Steve Barclay, Ms Cullen wrote: “What has been offered to date is simply not enough. The government needs to increase what has already been offered and we will be highly critical of any move to reduce it.
“Since our talks in February, we have seen the pressures on the NHS continue to increase. The crisis in our health and care services cannot be addressed without significant action that addresses urgent recruitment and retention issues and nursing pay to bring this dispute to a close urgently.
“Until there is a significantly improved offer, we are forced back to the picket line. Meetings alone are not sufficient to prevent strike action and I will require an improved offer as soon as possible. In February, you opened negotiations directly with me and I urge you to do the same now.
“After a historic vote to strike, our members expect a historic pay award.”
Nurses were among one million health service workers offered a five per cent increase in April and a one off bonus of at least £1,655 to top up the last financial year’s salary settlement.
The deal was struck after compromise on both sides following three weeks of intensive negotiations.
Ambulance workers and 999 call handlers in other unions also took industrial action.
Unison members voted overwhelmingly to accept the pay offer, with 74 per cent backing it on a 52 per cent turnout.
Unison’s head of health Sara Gorton said: “Clearly health workers would have wanted more, but this was the best that could be achieved through negotiation.
“Over the past few weeks, health workers have weighed up what’s on offer. They’ve opted for the certainty of getting the extra cash in their pockets soon.
“It’s a pity it took several months of strike action before the Government would commit to talks.
“Unions told ministers last summer the £1,400 pay rise wasn’t enough to stop staff leaving the NHS, nor to prevent strikes, but they didn’t want to listen.
“Instead, health workers were forced to strike, losing money they could ill afford. The NHS and its patients suffered months of unnecessary disruption.
“Other unions are still consulting so the full picture won’t emerge until the end of the month. “Unison will be urging the Government to ensure NHS workers get the wage rises they’ve voted for at the earliest opportunity.
“This vote might end Unison’s dispute, but it doesn’t solve the wider staffing emergency affecting every part of the NHS.
“Now, the Government must work with unions to bring about a sustained programme of investment in the workforce.
“Lessons must also be learned. The mistakes of the past few months cannot be repeated. It’s time for a whole new approach to setting pay across the NHS.”
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