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Until 23 June, members employed on Agenda for Change contracts in the NHS in England have the chance to vote on strike action. This includes internationally educated nursing staff, whose contribution to the NHS, which everyone in the UK depends on, is often overlooked.

You have the right to take lawful strike action, voting is completely confidential and neither your employer or the RCN will know if or how you have voted, and striking won’t affect any application for indefinite leave to remain. Read on for five reasons why you should vote ‘yes’ to strike action.  

1. Strike action works and is safe 

Strikes between December 2022 and May 2023 have won a pay rise for all NHS workers in England, which will be shown in your pay from June. But the fight for a fair pay offer from the UK government continues. We need pay that recognises your work, allows nursing staff to meet their daily needs and the needs of their families, and tackles the NHS staffing crisis.

In the strike action that we have arranged so far, we kept patients safe using derogations and by working hand-in-hand with employers to ensure a safe level of staffing was in place at all times, to preserve life and limb care. Vote ‘yes’ to strike action.  

2. You deserve a bigger pay rise  

Your pay hasn’t kept pace with the cost of living. Inflation isn’t falling fast enough and the government has underpaid you for years.

Grace came to work in the NHS as an internationally educated nurse more than a decade ago. She says: “When I came to England, the pay that was offered was just right to take care of our needs. After a few years, the cost of living has gone up. I can't even afford to pay my rent. One of the reasons we need to strike is for better pay. We offer a good service and we should be rewarded.  

“It’s also about safe staffing. When you don’t have the right staffing on the wards, your patients suffer. I think it’s time for the government to listen to nurses. I have colleagues who are already considering leaving England to move to places like America or Australia, where nurses are well rewarded, there’s good staffing and better pay.” 

Tell the government you demand and deserve more by voting ‘yes’ to strike action.

3. Striking won’t jeopardise your application for indefinite leave to remain 

When applying for indefinite leave to remain, you must provide a letter from your employer that details your absences from work. Absence from work to take part in legally organised strike action won’t have a negative impact on your application.

When applying for indefinite leave to remain, your employer will provide a supporting letter confirming your gross annual salary. The letter must also confirm that your gross annual salary meets the salary threshold required by the immigration rules. Any reduction in your salary due to taking part in legally organised strike action won’t have a negative impact on your application.

The government’s Workers and Temporary Workers guidance sets this out in more detail.

Our strike action will always be lawful. 

4. You can claim RCN strike benefit 

It may be a condition of your visa that you have no recourse to public funds, but our strike benefit is not public funds. So, if you strike and lose pay, you’re entitled to receive RCN strike benefit.

If your employer deducts pay because you take part in lawful, arranged strike action, you can claim strike benefit for each day you took part.  

5. Your vote matters 

Internationally educated nurses make an enormous contribution to the NHS and are deserving of fair pay and working conditions like everyone else.

It’s time to fight back and demand better, to turn the hopes you joined the NHS with into a reality. Without fair pay, you can’t give patients what they need, and you can’t build the lives you want and deserve. A vote to strike is a vote for safety and security and could change the face of nursing for generations to come. 

How to vote 

By law, strike ballots must take place by postal voting. The ballot is confidential, so nobody will know if you voted or how you voted. You don’t need to tell your employer anything about your vote. Your employer recognises that you’re entitled to take lawful strike action.

The RCN’s strike action will always be lawful.

Please return your postal ballot in the pre-paid envelope provided. Make sure your details, including your workplace and address, are up-to-date on MyRCN now. 

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