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RCN ballot for new strikes falls short but ‘fight for fair pay’ continues

The RCN has failed to secure a new mandate for strike action in its latest ballot of members. Six months of planned nursing strikes will not go ahead as voter turnout failed to reach the required threshold of 50%

The union has pledged continued pressure on the government, stating that the fight for fair pay is ‘far from over’.

Over 100,000 RCN members voted in favour of strike action, which accounted for around 84% of those who did vote. But l the ballot fell 288,000 votes below the threshold specified  in the Trade Union Act 2016, in order to receive a mandate.

Announcing the result  to members, Pat Cullen, RCN General Secretary said: ‘While this will be disappointing for many of you, the fight for fair pay and safe staffing that our profession, our patients, and our NHS deserves, is far from over’.

Ms Cullen met the Prime Minister yesterday afternoon to ‘hear him out and to ask the questions you wanted answering on his commitment to nurses and support workers’.

In April, RCN members rejected a 5% pay rise as well as a lump sum from the Government, Ms Cullen said  the pay rise was ‘simply not enough’ and stated that if the offer was not revised, members would be ‘forced back to the picket line’.

For many, the low turnout of yesterday’s ballot (43.4%) was no surprise, with RCN officials warning before the ballot closed that the government’s ‘consistent refusal’ to secure online voting would be detrimental to the vote unless nurses and support workers send their papers back in the post.

Criticism is mounting at the Government by members of the RCN with many pointing at the evident concerns within the nursing community, amidst growing pressures and no commitment from the government to meet pay demands.

The lowering of morale amongst the nursing workforce has caused concerns among employers.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation said: ‘we must not overlook the concerns and conditions nurses are working in. With 112,000 vacancies in the NHS and large numbers of nurses continuing to leave the service, the Government must do all it in can to address workforce shortages by implementing a fully funded and long overdue workforce plan, so nurses and other health staff can feel supported in delivering essential care to their patients’.

Frustration has also been pointed at the Trade Union laws, which many view as a barrier to effective change. Registered nurse and vice-chair of RCN Gloucestershire branch,. Charlotte Jakab-Hall, wrote on Twitter: ‘It's devastating when trade union laws impede the collective voice of workers. I hope a resolution can be reached that addresses the concerns of nursing staff and ensures the best possible outcomes for all involved.’

Aware of the growing sense of disillusionment, Ms Cullen wrote ‘I know staff morale is low and the staffing crisis is set to worsen without immediate action’. But she struck a defiant note, claiming that ‘the voice of nursing has never been stronger and we’re going to keep using it’.