‘Demoralised’ Nurses Consider Strike Action Over 2.5% Pay Offer

Nurses are considering industrial action over the “slap-in-the-face” offer of a below-inflation pay rise. The Royal College of Nursing’s annual congress will debate an emergency motion, submitted by the organisation’s Welsh board, today.

The motion will demand that the Government backtracks on its plans to stagger a 2.5% annual pay increase.

But it will also include the possibility of nurses taking some form of action, such as working to rule or even striking – although nurses will not take any action which will impact on patient care.

Welsh nurses last night told the Western Mail that morale among the workforce – the largest in the NHS – is at an all time low, as anger continues to spread about the pay rise. The government has said that nurses will receive just 1.5% of the pay award this month, with the remainder to be paid in November.

The staggered nature of the award means the deal is only worth 1.9%.

But nurses working in Scotland received the full pay rise this month, after the Scottish Executive said it could afford to pay it in one go.

Wales has said that is has no intention to break ranks with the Department of Health and fully fund the entire pay rise in one go.

Ann Taylor Griffiths, a clinical nurse practitioner at Bronglais Hospital in Aberystwyth and a member of the RCN’s Welsh Board, said, “Nurses are coming to the end of their tether – we feel undervalued and morale is probably the lowest I’ve ever seen since I started nursing in 1971.

“The health service has always relied on and has been given the good will of nurses, but that is fast disappearing.

“The numbers of nurses on wards is dangerously low and to cut that even further could be catastrophic, but I think a vote [on industrial action] would be very close.”

Tina Donnelly, director of the RCN in Wales, added, “Nurses are extremely angry – they believe they have contributed to NHS reform; have listened to what the government said about improving patient care and have given much of their own time to achieving that.

“The government slapped nurses on the back and said it applauded the work that we have done implementing these reforms, then slaps nurses in the face with the pay award.

“If there is no change there may well be some form of industrial action – nurses are not happy. The tone of this conference is that now is the time to act.”

The emergency motion submitted by the RCN’s Welsh Board demands that the recommendations of the independent pay review body are implemented in full from this month. The body decided that the 2.5% pay rise was affordable.

If nurses do vote in favour of industrial action, they have a number of options, which could include refusing to work extra shifts or cover colleagues’ overtime, refusing to do paperwork or stopping working extra hours for free.

Strike action would be a last resort as nurses will not take any action that will affect patient care.

Dr Peter Carter, head of the RCN, said he believed an all-out strike would not happen but he said nurses wanted something done to get their message across.

He added, “The average nurse or health worker does not want strike action, but because of the government’s actions it’s making them think like that.”