RCN launches biggest-ever strike ballot

RCN launches biggest-ever strike ballot

Earlier this year, nurses in England, Wales and Scotland were offered below-inflation pay increases of 4-5%. (Nurses in Northern Ireland are still waiting to hear whether they will receive a pay increase.) The offered pay increase is significantly below inflation levels, currently at 9.9%.

In response, the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) has launched its biggest ever strike ballot of its 30,000 members. The RCN is seeking a 5% pay rise above inflation to “overcome a decade of real-term pay cuts.” It is the first time in the RCN’s history that members across all four UK nations have been balloted. The strike ballot began on 6 October and will run until 2 November. 

Arguably, nurses had one of the hardest jobs out there even before the pandemic, but austerity measures over the last decade have meant their pay has gradually decreased in real terms. When the pandemic hit, we banged our pots and pans in solidarity with NHS nurses, but we didn’t give them anything they could actually use: better pay. As a result, the NHS has bled nurses, with at least 25,000 leaving the profession last year alone.

Understaffing has had a seriously detrimental impact on patient care: one survey found 8 in 10 nurses said patients were receiving compromised care because there were not enough nurses on shift. Nurses are being pushed beyond their limits.

The cost of living crisis has squeezed nurses. Many nurses have reported skipping meals in order to feed and clothe their children, and many struggled to cover their costs just for commuting to work. Stories of food banks being set up specifically for nurses have abounded. It is tragic that anyone would face these circumstances, but especially so when it is the nurses working full-time to look after all of us.

It is of no surprise that the RCN has launched the biggest-ever strike ballot but clearly, something has to give. The NHS cannot continue to rely on its employees’ sense of charity in order to run. Personally, I have my fingers crossed for the nurses, in the hopes they might finally be rewarded for all they do for us.

This blog was written by Kendal Youngblood, Solicitor at didlaw.