Nurses consider taking strike action over low pay

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NursesImage source, Getty Images

The Royal College of Nursing is consulting members across the UK over whether they should take industrial action over pay.

The RCN, the largest nursing union, said a combination of pay freezes and caps on rises meant there had been an effective pay cut of 14% since 2010.

The Scottish government said it had applied the pay increases recommended by the independent NHS Pay Review Body.

It said it had also brought in measures to assist the lowest paid.

The latest review of public sector pay announced a 1% rise.

'Low morale'

The RCN is asking its 270,000 members whether they want to strike before deciding whether to issue a formal ballot.

They will also be asked if they are interested in other forms of industrial action, such as working only their contracted hours or refusing to do work expected of more senior staff.

The union has said unprecedented pressure in the NHS means nurses have never worked harder, and for so little.

Image source, Science Photo Library

Teresa Fyffe, director for the Royal College of Nursing in Scotland, told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme some nurses had resorted to using food banks.

"Nurses have had a 14% pay cut since 2010 and we know that nurses are actually feeling tough times with regard to this low pay," she said.

"They are going to use food banks in some cases, they are doing double jobs and we also know that nurses have actually applied to our RCN Foundation for hardship grants. We see that there's been a 50% rise since 2010 - that's 700 nurses across the United Kingdom.

"So overall there is a feeling among nursing, a low morale, a feeling of weariness and a sense that their pay is going down, their work is getting harder and things aren't getting better for them."

She added: "We do note that the Scottish government did make a focus on low pay and that's very important but for all the other nurses who are working within the NHS in Scotland they are living with a 14% pay cut and they are living with a continuing difference in what their pay packet is to the cost of living.

"Members now have he chance to make their voices heard and let us know how they feel about this continuing reduction on their pay."

'Best rewarded'

A spokesman for the Scottish government said: "Unlike other countries, the Scottish government has applied the pay increases recommended by the independent NHS Pay Review Body again this year, supplemented by additional measures to assist the lowest paid and the continuation of the no compulsory redundancy guarantee for all staff.

"This ensures that NHS Scotland staff continue to be the best rewarded and most secure in the UK - a Scottish nurse in the main grade (Band 5) is currently between £227 and £312 per year better off than their English counterpart.

"We appreciate the concerns related to rising inflation and have avoided any formal pay cap at this time."

The spokesman added: "We aim to maintain a good relationship with staff representative bodies in NHS Scotland and are ready to discuss issues of concern with the RCN and others through our agreed partnership arrangements."

The poll of RCN members will close on Sunday 7 May and the results will be announced at the union's annual conference later that month.

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