Royal College Of Nursing Announces New Strike Dates For January

Nurses in England will walk out on January 18 and 19 as the row with the government escalates.
The RCN said thousands of nurses will take industrial action on January 18 and 19 unless negotiations are opened.
The RCN said thousands of nurses will take industrial action on January 18 and 19 unless negotiations are opened.
Andrew Aitchison via Getty Images

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has announced new strike dates for the new year in an escalation of the pay row with the government.

The RCN said thousands of nurses will take industrial action on January 18 and 19 unless negotiations are opened.

The union said more NHS trusts in England will be affected by the strikes in January than those that have already taken place this month — increasing from 44 to 55 trusts.

However, RCN members in Wales and Northern Ireland will not be striking in January as they did in December.

In Scotland, RCN members will announce new dates for strike action early in the new year after the union overwhelmingly voted to reject a revised NHS pay offer from the Scottish government.

The RCN is demanding an above-inflation pay rise of 19% but has signalled it is willing to negotiate with the government.

The health secretary, Steve Barclay, has repeatedly said he will not move on the nurses’ demands, saying they are “unaffordable” in the current economic climate.

He also said it was “important” for the union to “respect” the NHS pay review body, which recommended a pay award of around 4%.

The RCN’s chief executive, Pat Cullen, said Rishi Sunak had left nurses with “no choice” but to continue the dispute.

“The government had the opportunity to end this dispute before Christmas but instead they have chosen to push nursing staff out into the cold again in January,” she said.

“I do not wish to prolong this dispute but the prime minister has left us with no choice.

“The public support has been heart-warming and I am more convinced than ever that this is the right thing to do for patients and the future of the NHS.

“The voice of nursing will not be ignored. Staff shortages and low pay make patient care unsafe – the sooner ministers come to the negotiating table, the sooner this can be resolved. I will not dig in, if they don’t dig in.”

The future nurses strike will create a further headache for the government, which is battling industrial action on multiple fronts.

Today is the first day of industrial action by Border Force staff who have walked out at several airports, including Heathrow, Manchester and Glasgow, in a dispute over pay.

Meanwhile, members of the RMT rail union will go on strike from 6pm on Christmas Eve until 6am on December 27 and again on January 3,4,6 and 7.

However, the GMB union announced today that a planned strike by ambulance workers on December 28 has been suspended.

Asked about the wave of industrial action gripping the country, Rishi Sunak said he was “sad and disappointed” that the public had to endure the disruption but insisted that the government had acted “fairly and reasonably”.

“I am really sad and I am disappointed about the disruption that is being caused to so so many people’s lives, particularly at Christmas time,” he said while on a visit to a homeless shelter.

“When it comes to the difficult question of setting public pay, the government has acted fairly and reasonably in accepting all the recommendations of the public sector pay review bodies.

“I would urge everybody who is travelling at the moment to just please check before you make your journey so you know what it happening.”

The prime minister went on to say that the decision not to negotiate on pay with striking workers was “right thing for the whole country”.

“What I’m trying to do is make the right long-term decisions for the country, for everybody’s benefit,” he said.

“We all know the major economic challenge we all face now is inflation, it’s inflation eating into everyone’s pay packets.

“I want to make sure we reduce inflation, part of that is being responsible when it comes to setting public sector pay. That’s why we have an independent process.

“I know things are difficult but it’s right there’s an independent body that makes recommendations to the government and the government accepted those.

“It increased its offer, matched all those recommendations, I think that’s the reasonable thing to do. And in the long term it’s the right thing for the whole country that we beat inflation.”

Responding to the RCN’s announcement of the January strike dates, Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive at NHS Providers, said: “Today’s announcement of two more strike dates by nurses in January will pile even more pressure on an already overstretched health service following the recent strikes by nurses and ambulance staff – alongside many other winter challenges.

“Disruption to patient services due to the strikes in the last two weeks saw thousands of appointments being rescheduled or cancelled. This will have a domino effect on health and care services for days to come and will only be compounded by further industrial action in the new year.

“We understand how nurses and ambulance staff feel, and how they have reached this point. Below-inflation pay awards, the cost-of-living crisis, severe staff shortages and ever-increasing workloads make for near-impossible conditions.

“It’s deeply concerning that escalated and prolonged action is set to unfold in January. Serious talks, including specifically on pay, need to take place between health ministers and unions without delay.”


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