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RCN strike ballot opens, as Pat Cullen meets Health Secretary

Members working for the NHS in England are urged to vote ‘yes’ to strike action by the union’s leaders, as they pressure ministers to improve the pay award for nursing staff.

The ballot comes after members rejected the award in April following six days of strike action. A further 28-hour strike was held on 30 April with minimal derogations (exemptions from strike action), but the government has so far refused to negotiate further. 

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RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen will meet with Health Secretary Steve Barclay. Ahead of this meeting, she said: ‘This is unfinished business and the government can resolve it without the need for more strike action. The government has insisted they are not going to negotiate, but they’re mistaken if they think we’ll back down. Our members are rightly angry that the Health Secretary has ignored their rejection of the pay award. They’re demanding more and they deserve more.’

Unlike the strike ballot the RCN ran last year, this ballot will be ‘aggregated’ meaning the legal threshold that must be met to stage strike action applies just once to the entire voting membership (those working on Agenda for Change contracts in England), as opposed to per NHS employer. 

To achieve a country-wide mandate for strike action, 50% of all eligible members must vote and the majority must say ‘yes’ to strike. If this threshold is met, the RCN be able to stage strike action at all NHS employers across England, the union’s largest strike in England so far. If the threshold is missed, the organisation will not be able to stage strike action anywhere in England. 

‘Once again, we’ve been forced to ask members if you want to take to the picket lines in your fight for fair pay. I’m asking you to use your vote again and make the challenges facing our profession impossible to ignore,’ added Ms Cullen.

‘You can force the government back to the negotiating table. You can force them to make an improved pay offer. You can give a voice to patients no longer safe in an NHS that is falling apart due to government underfunding. Please use your vote today.’