It was announced that nurses across Wales would be out for their paychecks on two separate dates in December. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has confirmed that its strike will take place on Thursday 15 December and Tuesday 20 December.
RCN Wales announced on 9 November that nursing staff at all NHS employers across Wales had voted to take strike action over wages and patient safety, however the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board had not met the statutory threshold of 50% turnout. A mandate to strike has also been secured in all NHS employers in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and in 130 in England.Read:Personalised medicine: Australia aims to end childhood cancer deaths
The unprecedented industrial strike comes after governments in Wales, England and Northern Ireland rejected the RCN’s offer of formal negotiations as an alternative to a strike. The union claims the experienced nurse has seen her salary drop by at least 20% in real terms due to consecutive under-inflation awards since 2010.
Read more:What a nursing strike will mean for you and other patients across Wales
RCN Wales Director Helen Wylie said: “It has been more than two weeks since the First Minister of Wales confirmed our historic result in an RCN legal industrial strike ballot, in which our members voted overwhelmingly to strike. We have been met with silence.
An additional £1.2 billion has been earmarked for the Welsh government in the autumn statement. RCN Wales has called on the Welsh government to enter into meaningful talks in relation to nursing pay as a last chance for ministers to end actions that nursing staff feel they have no other choice but to take. We haven’t heard a thing.”Read:The future of drug delivery: from detailed extrusion to a solution
A debate was held in Sinead on Wednesday evening in which opposition parties called on the Welsh government to use “every mandated lever” to offer nurses a better pay offer. Ms Wylie added: “It is clear that the reality of a strike is starting to loom over the horizon for some ministers and the realization of the profound impact it will have in Wales and across the UK. However, there is nothing from the Welsh government.”
Ms. Willey said the strike would undoubtedly disrupt the health service and lead to cancellations of routine appointments and procedures. But she stressed that life-saving services such as emergency and intensive care would be protected.
Richard Jones, Chairman of RCN Wales, said: “We have been given every opportunity to end what is a last resort for nursing staff, but now is the time to stand up for our nurses who have been pushed to their limits and patients who suffer as a result of a lack of planning and investment in the workforce. This is it. The first time in the history of the RCN in Wales that nurses have decided to go on strike – what more can be said about that?”Read:Matchpoint Therapeutics Launches to Develop Covalent Medicines
Researchers at London Economics, commissioned by the RCN, looked at pay awards given to nursing staff in the UK’s NHS Agenda for Change program since 2010. They found that in real terms, an experienced nurse’s salary fell by 20% in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and 16% in Scotland.
NHS workers in the Agenda for Contracts earlier this year were told they would receive a £1,400 pay rise which equates to 4.75% on average – a decision described as “pathetic and humiliating”.
Speaking during the debate on Wednesday, the Health Secretary, Elunid Morgan, said: “We are acutely aware of why so many nurses are voting to strike from industrial work for the first time in the history of the RCN. We believe that nurses, along with other NHS workers and public sector workers who are working Hard working, they shall be fairly rewarded for their work.
“Nurses, healthcare professionals, cleaners, porters, paramedics and many other professions that make up NHS staff are subject to the same NHS terms and conditions as their colleagues across the UK – ‘Agenda for Change’ contracts. Members must therefore be on “Knowing that choosing one group of staff or prioritizing one group over another when it comes to payment has serious consequences. All NHS staff are very important, and without them – all of them – we cannot deliver NHS services.”
She added: “I am saddened that, in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, we are unable to give our nurses, NHS staff and wider public sector staff an inflation-matching bonus, because our funding settlement is far less than what is required to meet the great pressures we are facing.
“Last week the chancellor made his autumn statement, and we believe this has been a missed opportunity to offer nurses, NHS staff and public sector workers a pay rise. Now, there has been some additional funding for Wales – £1.2 billion over the next two years. This relates to everything we do. done in government — two years — but that’s far short of what’s needed to fill the holes in our budget, let alone meet wage calls being made by employees and unions throughout the public sector.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We understand why so many nurses voted the way they did and agree that nurses should be rewarded fairly for their important work. We also recognize the anger and disappointment that many public sector workers are feeling at the moment.
“In Wales we value social partnership and continue to meet trade unions regularly to discuss a range of issues affecting the workforce. However, we cannot increase the wage supply without additional funding being provided by the UK Government.
“Following the poll result, we will be working with the NHS and Health Boards on their contingency plans. The public should be assured that arrangements will be made with RCN Wales to ensure a safe level of staffing, whilst saving lives and providing life-sustaining care during any industrial strike “.
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