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Day two of nursing strikes: RCN issues ultimatum to government

Open formal pay negotiations within 48 hours or face another wave of strike action, warns RCN leader, as the second day of strikes begins in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Pat Cullen at picket line in Cardiff December 2022

Today (20 December) the second day of RCN strike action in England, Northern Ireland and Wales begins. Up to 100,000 nursing staff will walk out in protest against years of real-terms pay cuts and the erosion of patient safety in the NHS.

If the UK government fails to respond within 48 hours of today’s strike ending, we’ll be forced to announce further strike dates for January 2023.  

Nursing staff began strike action on 15 December, but the UK government and its Health Secretary Steve Barclay failed to open pay negotiations following the first strike. 

Now RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive Pat Cullen is escalating her demands to resolve the dispute. “The Prime Minister should ask himself what is motivating nursing staff to stand outside their hospitals for a second day so close to Christmas,” she said.  

“They’re prepared to sacrifice a day’s pay to have their concerns heard. Their determination stems as much from worries over patient safety and the future of the NHS than personal hardship. 

“Rishi Sunak is under growing pressure in Westminster following last Thursday’s strike and he should listen to people around him.  

“The public is increasingly with their local nursing staff and this government desperately needs to get on the right side of them. It is unprecedented for my members to strike. 

“Let’s get this wrapped up by Christmas. I will negotiate with him at any point to stop nursing staff and patients going into the new year facing such uncertainty. 

“But if this government isn’t prepared to do the right thing, we’ll have no choice but to continue in January and that will be deeply regrettable.” 

Strike action in Scotland was paused after the Scottish government returned to the negotiating table. We consulted RCN members in Scotland on the revised pay offer and results will be announced soon. 

Last week, picket lines in England, Northern Ireland and Wales were filled with nursing staff and our supporters. Even if you can’t make it to a picket line, you can support the strike on social media using the hashtag #RCNStrike, or by explaining to friends and family why nursing staff are on strike.