Nurses set to hold biggest-ever strike in UK

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The exact nature of the strikes is yet to be determined, but it will likely see patients facing disruption to operations and appointments amid record NHS waiting lists…reports Asian Lite News

Counting is under way in the ballot of more than 300,000 Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members – but it’s believed enough nurses have voted for a winter walkout.

The industrial action is set to take place within a few weeks, possibly before Christmas, as the RCN demands a pay rise of 5% above inflation.

General secretary Pat Cullen said: ‘Our strike action will be as much for patients as it is for nurses – we have their support in doing this.’

The exact nature of the strikes is yet to be determined, but it will likely see patients facing disruption to operations and appointments amid record NHS waiting lists.

‘This will see the majority of services taken out, and picket lines across the country,’ a union source said.

It comes as Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt face the huge challenge of tackling a £50 billion hole in public finances.

In a statement, Cullen said: ‘Patients are at great risk when there aren’t enough nurses.

‘Huge numbers of staff – both experienced and newer recruits – are deciding they cannot see a future in a nursing profession that is not valued nor treated fairly.’

She added: ‘As we begin action, politicians in every part of the UK will be challenged to back their nursing staff and understand the strength of public support.’

The RCN said there are record nursing vacancies and in the last year 25,000 nursing staff around the UK left the Nursing and Midwifery Council register.

It said recent analysis showed an experienced nurse’s salary has fallen by 20% in real terms since 2010, adding the goodwill of nursing staff is being ‘exploited’ by UK governments.

During the ballot, the RCN had argued this year’s below-inflation pay award came after years of squeezes on nurse’s salaries.

Research commissioned by the union has found average pay fell by 6% between 2011 and 2021 – once inflation was taken into account – compared with a 4.6% drop for the whole economy.

Starting salaries for nurses in England are currently just above £27,000, rising to nearly £55,000 for the most senior nurses.

The RCN said the average pay for a full-time established nurse was just above £32,000 last year – similar to average pay across the economy.

But the government has argued it has met the recommendations of the independent NHS Pay Review Body in giving its award.

And it followed a 3% pay rise last year, in recognition of work during the pandemic, despite a public-sector pay freeze.

This is the first time the RCN has balloted all its members for strike action in its 106-year history.

In 2019, RCN members went on strike in Northern Ireland over pay, while nurses who are members of Unison in England walked out in 2014 over pay.

A host of other major health unions, including Unison, the Royal College of Midwives, GMB and Unite, have all started to, or are planning to, ballot members.

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