The Royal College of Nursing has announced strike dates for its members following its biggest ballot in its 106-year history.
The RCN is campaigning for a pay rise of 5% above inflation to overcome “a decade of real-terms pay cuts,” support nursing staff through the cost-of-living crisis and recognise their safety critical skills. That figure is based on the RPI inflation rate (which was 14.2% in October) plus 5%.
The action is also about patient safety. Staffing levels are so low that patient care is being compromised. The RCN says that only by paying nursing staff fairly will people be able to be recruited and retained in the profession.
The first phase of strike action will take place on Thursday 15 and Tuesday 20 December.
The RCN says the action is the result of the government turning down an offer of formal, detailed negotiations as an alternative to strikes.
The strikes will happen in England, Northern Ireland and Wales with a list of where action will take place announced next week.
Strike action will happen in phases, meaning more strike dates could be announced after initial action in December.
Not all members will be called to strike on these first two dates.
RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive Pat Cullen said: “Ministers have had more than two weeks since we confirmed that our members felt such injustice that they would strike for the first time.
“My offer of formal negotiations was declined and instead ministers have chosen strike action. They have the power and the means to stop this by opening serious talks that address our dispute.
“Nursing staff have had enough of being taken for granted, enough of low pay and unsafe staffing levels, enough of not being able to give our patients the care they deserve.”
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay says the government has given nurses a proportionate, balanced pay increase in line with recommendations of an independent panel.
He said: “We are giving over one million non-medical NHS workers a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year, on top of a 3% pay increase last year when wider public sector pay was frozen.
“As a result, a newly qualified nurse will now typically earn over £31,000 a year including overtime and unsocial hours payments. This is a balanced increase that is fair for nurses and the taxpayer too.”
He said the RCN “is demanding a massive pay rise” which “is simply neither reasonable nor affordable.”
He added: “It is inevitable that any strike would mean some patients will have their treatment delayed, and I would urge the unions to consider the impact on those who rely on the NHS for their care. We are facing a difficult winter for our whole country and industrial action is in nobody’s best interests.”