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New RCN ballot results give clearest sign yet of strike action by nursing staff across the UK

RCN members in Scotland overwhelmingly reject NHS pay deal with majority backing strike action.

People with RCN fair pay placards on a march in London
The results of our recent ballot of members working for the NHS in Scotland provide the clearest sign yet that industrial action could take place across the UK later this year.  

The ballot of nursing staff on Agenda for Change contracts in Scotland saw more than double the number of members turnout to vote than a similar ballot last year. More than 90% rejected the Scottish government’s pay offer, with the majority voting in favour of taking strike action.  

The turnout far exceeded 50%, which is the minimum turnout needed for strike action to be legal. Members in Scotland will now be asked to vote in a statutory ballot by post, which is required by law for nursing staff to join picket lines. The recent ballot was indicative of members’ feeling towards the pay offer and industrial action, but did not meet the strict criteria required for a strike to be lawful. 

What is required to make strike action lawful?

Members working for the NHS in Scotland will now join those in England and Wales asked to vote in a statutory strike ballot opening on 15 September. We’ll be encouraging members eligible to take part in that ballot to vote in favour of strike action.  

Pat Cullen, RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive, said: “Nursing staff will stop at nothing to protect their patients. Staff shortages are putting patient safety at risk and the failure of governments across the UK to listen has left us with no choice but to advocate for strike action.  

"Our members in Scotland have sent a clear message that the Scottish government’s offer simply wasn’t good enough. A lifetime of service must never mean a lifetime of poverty. Ministers’ refusal to recognise the skill and responsibility of the job is pushing people out of the profession.”  

Eligible members will receive their ballot in the post and will have four weeks to respond, with the vote closing on 13 October. We need you to urgently check that we have your up-to-date home address, employer details and job title so that every eligible member receives their postal ballot. 

Check your details now

If enough members vote for industrial action, it will be the first time in RCN history that members in England, Wales and Scotland go on strike. RCN Council, made up of elected members, has increased our strike fund to £50 million (up from £35 million) to provide some financial support to members who lose earnings during any industrial action. 

Find out more about the NHS pay awards for England, Wales, and Scotland that have led us to this point.   

The RCN has been campaigning for a fully funded pay rise of 5% above inflation, which is currently 11.8%, to combat years of wage stagnation and the cost-of-living crisis. Industrial action is a last resort, but the current NHS staffing crisis is causing unacceptable risk to patients and nursing staff. 

Find out how you can help promote our fight for fair nursing pay.  

In Northern Ireland, a formal pay announcement is still awaited. 

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