Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) want to resume the strikes which have crippled the NHS this winter.
Rebellious nurses are furious at the union for agreeing to pause a planned 48-hour walk-out on March 1 in order to discuss pay with ministers.
They have now launched a petition demanding the RCN backtracks on its decision, calling it ‘disrespectful’ and warning that it will ‘inevitably’ lead to the Government making a sub-par offer.
‘A below inflation offer does not solve any of the issues we face, and would force us to strike again next year for another pay rise,’ the petition stated.
The RCN has been campaigning for an inflation-busting pay rise of 19 per cent since nurses first took to the picket lines in December.
The nursing dispute is over pay and working conditions, with the RCN demanding a pay rise 5 per cent above RPI inflation — equivalent to a 19 per cent boost (red bar). However, it has consistently indicated that it would accept a lower offer. A 19 per cent rise would see the average nurses’ salary rise from £37,000 to £44,050, while a 10 per cent rise would see it increase to £40,700 (purple bar)
While the RCN now paused a planned 48-hour strike action for March 1, industrial action by other unions is still going ahead with NHS ambulance union Unison announcing a new day of industrial action on March 8
This would see the average nurses’ salary rise from £37,000 to £44,050.
The RCN has, however, hinted that it would accept a lower deal.
The Government had until this week refused to negotiate on salaries, sticking with its offer of around 4 per cent, or £1,400, for the 2022/23 financial year.
Yet in a massive U-turn Health Secretary Steve Barclay committed to holding pay talks with the RCN this week.
Sources have said any extra cash for nurses would come in the form of a one-off payment, potentially backdated to April last year.
Pay settlements for next year and the year after will also be up for discussion in what could end up being a three-year package.
It is understood ministers are likely to only be allowed to offer pay rises of up to 5 per cent for both this year and next – a maximum total of 10 per cent.
Industrial action this winter has led to thousands of NHS appointments and operations being cancelled as a result of staff walking off the job.
The RCN’s next strike was due on March 1.
Unlike previous walk-outs, it would have seen A&E, cancer ward and intensive care nurses also walk-off the job the first time.
This was an escalation from previous strike action in the months before which had seen these staff exempt from industrial action to maintain these services.
But the new petition — titled ‘In it to win it!’ — wants the RCN to keep striking during the talks.
It accused union leaders of ‘selling them short’.
‘The strikes have been called off for talks without a concrete pay offer,’ it stated.
‘There is no pressure on the government to give us a better offer, and we are losing valuable time while the government will inevitably make a below inflation offer to the RCN.
‘We did not go on strike for a below inflation pay rise.
A militant faction of the RCN wants union leaders to resume strike action that has devastated the NHS this winter Pictured nurses at a previous strike in January
‘To call off strikes for negotiations around this amount is disrespectful to members who have sacrificed much and taken great risks, and to the public who have had their lives disrupted by our strike.’
Listing their demands, the nurses — who weren’t named — said the RCN should resume striking while negotiations are ongoing and keep demanding a pay rise of 5 per cent above inflation.
Another demand was for the union to coordinate further strikes with junior doctors to achieve the maximum level of disruption to the NHS.
Over 47,000 junior medics could hold a three day strike of their own in March, after 98 per cent voted to strike in the British Medical Association’s (BMA) industrial action ballot.
Like nurses, junior doctors are also seeking an inflation-busting pay rise.
Yet they want a colossal 30 per cent increase, a figure which ministers have labelled ‘unrealistic’ and warned will ‘put patients at risk’.
The RCN was contacted for comment on the petition.
RCN member and nurse specialising in addiction Harry Eccles shared the petition on social media and wrote: ‘In it to win it. This is our one opportunity to save the NHS. All RCN members please sign and retweet!’
Union officials met with Mr Barclay again today for their second round of talks on pay.
It comes as ambulance workers yesterday announced another strike date as retaliation for the Government decision to only pay talks with nurses.
Other health unions have accused ministers of using ‘divide and rule’ tactics by only agreeing to talk to one NHS staff group.
In reaction, NHS union Unison revealed healthcare assistants, cleaners, porters and ambulance staff it represents will now walk out across England on March 8.
It insisted there could be ‘no pick-and-mix solution’ and warned the decision to talk only to the RCN ‘could make a bad situation much worse’.
Health workers at NHS Blood and Transplant, Great Ormond Street Hospital, Liverpool Women’s Hospital and the Bridgewater Community Trust will be among those now walking out for the first time.
They will be joined by ambulance staff at four services in England – South Central, East of England, West Midlands and East Midlands, also now able to take action following a strike vote last week.
Almost 140,000 ops and appointments have been cancelled because of NHS strikes this winter. That toll includes the biggest ever strike to rock the ailing health service on February 6, involving tens of thousands of nurses and paramedics
This means staff will be on picket lines in all but one ambulance service in England. Ambulance Unison members in London, Yorkshire, the North East, North West and South West – who have already taken action on four previous occasions – will also walk out on March 8.
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: ‘Unfortunately for patients, staff and anyone that cares about the NHS, the strikes go on. There can be no pick-and-mix solution. NHS workers in five unions are involved in strike action over pay, staffing and patient care.
‘Speaking to one union and not others won’t stop the strikes and could make a bad situation much worse.’
Dr Suzanne Tyler, from the Royal College of Midwives, said: ‘This divide and rule tactic by the Westminster Government will not work.
‘There are millions of health workers represented by the health unions and we remain united in our campaign for a better deal for all of our members.’
Doctors from the BMA have said it is not too late for Government to stop up to 47,600 medics below the rank of consultant walking out of hospitals, including A&E next month.
Dr Rob Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi, the co-chairmen of the union’s junior doctors’ committee said: ‘The Government has agreed to enter intensive talks with other unions but the strength of feeling of our junior doctor members is being resolutely ignored.’
As well as nurses, ambulance staff and physiotherapists have also taken to the picket lines this winter.
The combined strike action has led to NHS hospital cancelling of 140,000 NHS ops and appointments so far.
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