Thousands of nurses to go on strike again in January – but next ambulance strike called off

UK

Thousands of nurses in England will go on strike again next month in a dispute over pay.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced that nurses would strike on 18 and 19 January and said further dates would be confirmed in the new year.

Pat Cullen, head of the union, said: “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.

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

Drivers advised when to travel – strikes latest

A planned strike by ambulance workers in the GMB union on 28 December has been suspended, the union announced on Friday.

Just before the RCN announcement, prime minister Rishi Sunak said he is “sad and disappointed” that strikes are threatening to disrupt Christmas getaways.

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PM: Govt acted ‘fairly’ over strikes

Hundreds of thousands of workers across many sectors of the economy have gone on strike or are planning to this winter as unions seek pay rises for their members during the cost of living crisis and soaring inflation.

The RCN said the next phase of walkouts will take place in England only as its strike action across the UK may need to be prolonged unless governments find a way to resolve the dispute over pay.

Members of the RCN in England, Wales and Northern Ireland staged their biggest-ever walkouts on 15 and 20 December.

Nurses and other nursing staff walked out at half of the locations in England where the legal mandate for strikes was secured in November.

There were also strikes at every NHS employer in Wales except one and throughout Northern Ireland.

But the RCN said nurses in Wales and Northern Ireland will not be striking again in the new year.

It insisted that everyone employed where strike action has been mandated will have the opportunity to strike if the dispute continues.

Strike action is ‘right thing to do for patients and NHS’

Ms Cullen added that the public support has been “heart-warming”, adding she is “more convinced than ever” that further strike action 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,” she said.

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The RCN previously said the number of NHS employers affected would increase next month unless negotiations were held.

Nurses in Scotland announced they would go on strike early in 2023 after members of the RCN “overwhelmingly” rejected the latest pay offer from the Scottish government.

Read more:
Strikes every day before Christmas – which sectors are affected and why
How A&E and other NHS services will be impacted

Nurses 20% worse off in real terms

The RCN said despite this year’s pay award of £1,400, experienced nurses were 20% worse off in real terms due to successive below-inflation awards since 2010.

It has called for a pay rise of 5% above RPI inflation, saying the economic argument for paying nursing staff fairly is clear when billions of pounds is being spent on agency staff to plug workforce gaps.

The RCN said in the last year 25,000 nursing staff around the UK left the Nursing and Midwifery Council register, with 47,000 unfilled registered nurse posts in England’s NHS alone.

The trade union said that industrial action is a last resort, adding it is committed to negotiating improved pay deals with governments before taking strike action when the dispute cannot be resolved.

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