Thousands of NHS nurses will be going on strike for two days next month over low pay and shortage of staff after the UK Government rejected their offer of formal negotiations as an alternative to industrial action. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) told PA media that the members will hold their first-ever national walkout in 106 years on December 15 and 20.
The RCN had earlier said that the NHS nurses have seen their salaries drop by up to 20 percent in real terms over the last 10 years, leaving members struggling to feed their families and pay their bills.
Earlier this month, the RCN said NHS employers across the country have voted for the industrial action demanding better salaries.
RCN General Secretary Pat Cullen told PA: “Ministers have had more than two weeks since we confirmed that our members felt such injustice that they would strike for the first time.
“My offer of formal negotiations was declined and, instead, ministers have chosen strike action.
“They have the power and the means to stop this by opening serious talks that address our dispute.
“Nursing staff have had enough of being taken for granted, enough of low pay and unsafe staffing levels, enough of not being able to give our patients the care they deserve.”
However, the situation in Scotland is different as the RCN has paused announcing strike action after the Government there reopened NHS pay negotiations.
The UK has seen a wave of industrial unrest this year across industries from railways to the law as pay fails to keep up with inflation, running at 10 percent, and surging energy costs.
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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson earlier this month said the Government wanted to strike a balance between the “crucial role” played by nurses and the fiscal challenges facing the country.
But the RCN’s demands, which it estimates will cost £9 billion ($10.25 billion) would be “simply not deliverable”, the spokesperson said.
They added that contingency plans are in place for any “staff impact”.
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay earlier had said: “I am hugely grateful for the hard work and dedication of nurses and deeply regret some union members will be taking industrial action.
“These are challenging times for everyone and the economic circumstances mean the RCN’s demands, which on current figures are a 19.2 percent pay rise, costing £10 billion a year, are not affordable.
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“We have prioritised the NHS with an extra £6.6 billion, on top of previous record funding, and accepted the recommendations of the independent NHS Pay Review Body to give nurses a fair pay rise of at least £1,400 this year.
“This means a newly qualified nurse will typically earn over £31,000 a year – with more senior nurses earning much more than that – they will also receive a pension contribution worth 20 percent of their salary.
“Our priority is keeping patients safe.
“The NHS has tried and tested plans in place to minimise disruption and ensure emergency services continue to operate.”