NHS pay: nurses vote overwhelmingly to reject 3%

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Members of the Royal College of Nursing in England and Wales have voted overwhelmingly to reject the government’s proposed 3% pay rise for NHS staff.

The announcement of the ballot results on the RCN’s website reports:

A significant number of members took part in the consultative ballot, with 91.7% of those who voted in England saying they think the pay award is unacceptable, and 8.3% saying they think it is acceptable.

In Wales, 93.9% of members who voted said they think the pay award is unacceptable, with 6.1% saying they think it is acceptable.

Of those eligible to take part in the consultation in England, 25.4% turned out to vote. In Wales the turnout was 29.3%. The turnout in England is up by a third compared to the turnout in the NHS pay consultation in 2018 and is the RCN’s highest ever consultative ballot turnout.

Your elected representatives on the RCN’s Trade Union Committee will now carefully consider the results and decide on next steps.

The next steps for the union could include an indicative ballot (i.e. a further non-binding ballot to consult members on their views), or a full ballot on industrial action as required by UK trade union law. Industrial action could also take multiple forms, such as a strike (in which workers cease work except for life-saving emergency cover) or work-to-rule action (in which workers cease to carry out tasks that aren’t specifically required by their job description). A work-to-rule action could be highly significant given that many Trusts routinely rely on staff to do extra work, that staff are often not fully remunerated for. There have also been cases of health workers protesting sub-standard pay and conditions by collectively refusing to take on bank work (work allotted to a "bank" of staff who volunteer to take on extra shifts for flexible working), which many NHS workplaces rely on.

All other major unions representing NHS workers in England and Wales, including Unite, UNISON and GMB, are likewise holding (or have recently held) consultations with their members on industrial action, after mass anger among health workers over the insulting 3% pay rise offered to workers by the government in July (up from 1% offered in March).

A 3% rise would likely not even keep up with inflation, making this the latest in over a decade of real-terms pay cuts. Figures from the Health Foundation show that nurses in England have seen their pay fall by almost £2000 on average since 2011.

If you are an NHS worker and a member of a trade union, use our handy information page to find and take part in your union’s consultation on pay. Don’t delay – most of these initial consultations close soon!

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