The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has threatened to break new ground and strike over pay for the first time since its inception in 1916.
Delegates at the union’s annual conference in Harrogate last week voted by 95% for nationwide action if the government did not revise its decision to award nurses a below-inflation pay rise.
Chancellor Gordon Brown’s decision to have a staged 2.5% rise, with a 1.5% increase this month and an extra 1% from November, met with anger as it effectively amounts to 1.9% over the year.
More than 10,000 nurses have already written letters of complaint to MPs about the pay decision.
Dr Peter Carter, the new general secretary of the RCN, outlined the union’s next steps and is aiming to meet Brown and health secretary Patricia Hewitt. Carter said the issue would top the agenda at the RCN Council meeting in May.
“The government trades on the fact nurses won’t walk out on patients. It’s about finding ways and approaches to make our point while protecting our patients,” he said.
A ballot conducted by the GMB union, which represents 25,000 NHS staff, found 96.7% rejected the staging of the pay award and 86.4% were prepared to take industrial action, with three-quarters in favour of strikes.