Nurses at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) union have rejected the government’s pay offer in England, leading to a 48-hour strike from 8pm on 30 April to 8pm on 2 May. This will involve NHS nurses in emergency departments, intensive care, cancer and other wards, and is “hugely concerning” for patients, according to the government.
Members of the Unison union, which includes some nurses and ambulance crews, have accepted the pay offer. This includes a 5% pay rise for 2023/24 and an extra one-off lump sum of at least £1,655 to top up the past year’s salary.
The RCN vote on pay was very close, with 54% voting to reject the offer and 46% voting to accept it. In contrast, the Unison vote was overwhelmingly in favour of the deal.
RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said: “What has been offered to date is simply not enough.” She added that the government “needs to increase what has already been offered and we will be highly critical of any move to reduce it”.
Cullen went on to say that meetings alone are not sufficient to prevent strike action and that she will require an improved offer as soon as possible. She concluded that, after a historic vote to strike, members expect a historic pay award.
In response, Sara Gorton from Unison said: “Clearly health workers would have wanted more, but this was the best that could be achieved through negotiation.” She added that health workers have opted for the certainty of getting the extra cash in their pockets soon.
A government spokesperson said the Unison decision “demonstrates that it is a fair and reasonable proposal that can bring this dispute to an end”. They added that they hope this generous offer secures support from other unions who are still voting in ballots.
The upcoming strike by nurses is a cause for concern for patients and healthcare workers alike. The RCN have rejected the government’s pay offer due to its perceived inadequacy, while Unison members have accepted it in order to receive the extra cash soon. The government are hoping that other unions will accept the offer in order to bring the dispute to an end.