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RCN strikes will go ahead, after Health Secretary refuses to discuss pay

13 Dec 2022

Government rejects option to avert nursing strikes by choosing not to enter formal pay negotiations. Strikes in England, Northern Ireland and Wales will happen on 15 and 20 December.

RCN members at Conservative Party Conference demonstration

Last night (12 December), RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive Pat Cullen met with Health Secretary Steve Barclay with hopes of beginning formal pay negotiations, which could have averted strike action. However, Mr Barclay refused to discuss pay, and therefore strikes will go ahead as planned on Thursday 15 and Tuesday 20 December.

Following the meeting, Pat said: “I asked several times to discuss pay and each time we returned to the same thing – that there was no extra money on the table, and that they would not be discussing pay with me.”

She continued: “I needed to come out of this meeting with something serious to show nursing staff why they should not strike this week. Regrettably, they’re not getting an extra penny.

“Ministers had too little to say and I had to speak at length about the unprecedented strength of feeling in the profession.

“I expressed my deep disappointment at the belligerence that was shown – they closed their books and walked away.”

Over the weekend, Pat discussed her willingness to negotiate with the Health Secretary in several TV and newspaper interviews, explaining: “I won't dig in if he doesn't”.

She also made clear that if the Health Secretary did not want to negotiate directly, then the RCN would be open to ACAS conciliation – this too would have paused strike action.

However, ministers have declined the RCN’s repeated offers of formal pay negotiations and trade dispute resolution and instead chosen strike action.

Ahead of strike action this Thursday (15 December), we’re urging every member working at an employer where strike action is planned to assume they will be on strike unless they’ve seen evidence that the RCN has agreed to a derogation (exemption from strike action) that affects them.

Members must ask their managers to see the completed RCN derogation form setting out the agreed derogation numbers for their ward, department or service. Employers and managers have been asked to provide this information also.

Meanwhile, plans for strike action in Scotland have been paused after the Scottish government returned to the negotiating table. We’re consulting eligible RCN members in Scotland on the revised pay offer and the ballot closes on Monday 19 December.

We’re campaigning for a pay rise to overcome real-terms pay cuts which have left experienced nurses 20% worse off since 2010. Only by paying nursing staff fairly will we recruit and retain the skilled professionals we need.

The RCN strikes in December could be the beginning of a longer period of action if formal pay negotiations either don’t happen, or don’t result in a satisfactory outcome. 

Visit our Strike Hub to find all the information you need to feel equipped and empowered to strike.  

Page last updated - 17/07/2023