The proposed changes to laws on agency workers is an ‘attempt to make strike action ineffective’, the RCN has said.
MPs voted to approve regulations to allow employers across all sectors to use agency staff to replace striking workers, and to increase the level of damages a court can award in the case of unlawful strike action. According to the RCN, this constitutes a deliberate attempt to make strike action ineffective and will only serve to undermine the rights of union members to stand up for better pay and working conditions. Furthermore, it could put patients at risk in the event of industrial action in the health care sector.
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‘This week, the public showed that they support nursing staff taking action to get the pay rise they deserve,’ said RCN Director of Employment Relations and Legal Services Joanne Galbraith-Marten.
‘Yet the proposals passed in the House of Commons, seeking to undermine potential industrial action, are deeply undemocratic and unsafe for patients.’
The news comes as an RCN poll revealed that public support in England for nursing staff taking industrial action over pay has risen sharply to almost half in the space of just a few weeks.
In May, 42% of respondents said they were ‘very’ or ‘quite’ likely to support nurses taking industrial action over pay. That figure has now risen to 49% amid the prospect of yet another below-inflation NHS pay rise, which ministers have suggested could be as little as 2 to 3%.
‘Lack of staff is putting patient care at risk. The pressure on nursing staff is unrelenting and now soaring inflation means they’re struggling to pay the bills and going to food banks,’ said RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive Pat Cullen.
‘Nursing staff are leaving the profession in their droves – the incredible financial hardship they face is proving the final straw. After a decade of pay cuts by the UK government, nursing staff can’t afford to wait any more.’