Socialist Worker

Royal College of Nursing announces a "summer of protest" over public sector pay cap

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2554

Huge protests have shown the mood to fight for the NHS

Huge protests have shown the mood to fight for the NHS (Pic: Socialist Worker)


The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said it will stage a “summer of protest” over the Tories’ miserly 1 percent pay cap. Their warning to the government came as nurses in the RCN overwhelmingly said they wanted to be balloted for industrial action.

In the online consultation some 97 percent rejected the 1 percent pay offer—and 78 percent said they would be willing to walk out. Some 91 percent said they would support industrial action short of a strike

Around 52,000 of the RCN’s 270,000 members took part in the consultation.

This is a sign of the growing anger among health workers after years of being hammered by the Tories’ attacks on the NHS. Michael Brown, chairman of the RCN Council, said, “Our members have given us the very clear message that they can't and won't take any more.

“If we don't stand up now, how can we guarantee our members future safety and wellbeing?”

RCN said it would hold a formal ballot or industrial action if the “next government” does not scrap the cap.

The result came as the RCN published new research highlighting the dangerous understaffing in the NHS.

There are 40,000 fewer nurses in England than is needed. In hospitals some 11 percent of nursing posts are unfilled—among mental health nurses the figure is higher still at 14.2 percent.

That’s because poverty pay, rocketing workloads and the government's hostility to migrants are pushing nurses and other health workers out of the NHS.

Suffered

This is one reason why it is important that Labour has pledged to lift the 1 percent pay cap if it wins the general election on 8 June. But nurses have suffered a 14 pay cut in real terms the Tories imposed the cap in 2010.

This means simply lifting the cap will not be enough—and it will take a serious fight to win a real pay rise.

The Unison union’s leadership is arguing for local regrading disputes in each of its 12 regions as a substitute for national action. But the RCN result could put pressure on it to take the fight forward over the pay cap.

Karen Reissmann is a mental health nurse in Bolton who sits on the Unison's health service group executive. “Health workers will feel really heartened by someone standing up and saying it’s wrong,” she told Socialist Worker in a personal capacity.

“I don’t think Unison realise how angry nurses and other health workers are, and not just about pay. Year on year you are being paid less, but you’re having to work twice as hard, running around and feel you’re letting patients down.

“The RCN result shows that there is a mood to fight if people think you’re serious about leading it.

“In light of this I think Unison should review their decision”.


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