The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 19th May 2017

Nurses vote for strike ballot

NURSES who are members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) last week voted overwhelmingly in a consultative vote for a ballot for strike action in protest at the one per cent cap on their pay rises.

They voted by 78 per cent for a strike and by 91 per cent for industrial action short of a strike.

The results of the consultative vote were announced last Sunday at the union’s annual conference in Liverpool, where plans for a “summer of protest activity” were high on the agenda.

If the strike goes ahead, it will be the first time industrial action has been taken in the nursing union’s 100-year history

The RCN has warned that low pay is partly responsible for tens of thousands of unfilled posts. Nurses say they have experienced a 14 per cent pay cut in real terms since 2010 because of the Government’s cap on public sector pay.

The union reported that NHS staff, including nurses, are quitting to work in supermarkets because of poor pay and that the policy of limiting rises to one per cent is damaging the health service and must not be pursued into the next parliament.

A formal public sector pay cap of one per cent was introduced in 2015. The RCN’s general secretary, Janet Davies, has warned that years of pay cuts have left nurses struggling to make ends meet. There have been reports of staff applying for payday loans and resorting to going to foodbanks to supplement their diminishing incomes.

Commenting on the ballot result, Davies said: “What’s happened today is unprecedented for the RCN and is a reflection of the deep anger members feel. The current conditions in the NHS are driving people out of the profession and putting new people off entering it.

“Our argument is not with patients — this is about ensuring that they get the safe and effective care they need. The one per cent cap on nursing pay is putting patient care at risk.”

Michael Brown, chair of the RCN Council, said: “Our members have given us the very clear message that they can’t and won’t take any more.

“This is an unprecedented show of anger and frustration over the Government’s pay policy. Politicians must now listen and tell us what they will do about nursing pay.

“It’s a message to all parties that the crisis in nursing recruitment must be put centre stage in this election. We’re demanding answers on behalf of our patients as well as nursing staff.

“If we don’t stand up now, how can we guarantee their future safety and well-being?”

Jon Skewes, the Royal College of Midwives’ director of policy, employment relations and communications, said: “NHS staff have now seen seven years of pay restraint and with at least another three years on the horizon.

“Continuing pay restraint is a disastrous, unsustainable policy for maternity services and the NHS. We are working with other NHS trade unions to break the Government’s policy of pay restraint.”

A survey by the Health Foundation charity last month found that England could face a shortfall of 42,000 nurses by 2020, and almost half of all nurses believe staffing levels are already dangerously stretched. One in nine positions is vacant, according to analysis by the RCN.

Dr Mark Porter, the British Medical Association (BMA) council chair, said: “Year after year of real-terms pay cuts have had a damaging impact on the morale of front-line NHS staff.

“Ongoing pay restraint has seen doctors’ pay fall by up to 17 per cent in recent years, leading to staff shortages and impacting on patient care, and doctors across the country will agree with the very strong message sent today by nurses, that the pay cap is unfair, unacceptable and must be lifted.”