Double the number of nurses will strike next month in a bid to amp up pressure on the government, union bosses have warned. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said that if no progress was made in pay negotiations by the end of January, the next set of strikes in February will include “all eligible members” in England for the first time.
The RCN have asked for a pay increase of 5% above inflation, which at the top rate would have equated to a 19% rise. Some reports have suggested that the union would accept a 10% increase.
It comes as ministers push for new laws that will see a “minimum service and safety” requirement on strike days, a move that the TUC (Trades Union Congress) has branded “draconian”. The new legislation is expected to take around six months to pass through Parliament.
RCN’s general secretary Pat Cullen described Rishi Sunak’s position on negotiations as “baffling, reckless and politically ill-considered”. She added: “The prime minister gave nursing staff a little optimism that he was beginning to move, but seven days later he appears entirely uninterested in finding a way to stop this.
"Nursing staff just wanted to be valued and recognised. The nurse shortage costs lives – Sunak cannot put a price on a safe NHS.”
This week, Mr Sunak said he hoped to “find a way through” with unions to try and dodge any further strikes. But the current stance from the government is that the RCN’s demands “are unaffordable” and that pay rises were decided by independent pay review bodies.
A spokesperson for the Department for Health and Social Care said: "We have accepted the recommendations of the independent NHS Pay Review Body in full and have given over one million NHS workers a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year. This is on top of a 3% pay increase last year when public sector pay was frozen and wider government support with the cost of living."
Nurses in Wales are also expected to strike in February, although the RCN is not planning to stage industrial action in Northern Ireland or in Scotland where negotiations are continuing.