The Royal College of Nursing has today announced the dates for a ballot over potential strike action in Scotland.
It comes after the results of a recent indicative ballot, where more than 90% of respondents voted to reject the 5% pay offer from the Scottish Government, with the majority voting in favour of taking strike action.
“In all my years in nursing I have never known such strength of determination amongst nursing staff”
The college said that the number of Scottish members voting on the pay offer “more than doubled”, compared to a similar ballot last year.
Each of the NHS trade unions stated their position on the government’s offer today at the Scottish Terms and Conditions Committee (STAC), the body for collective pay bargaining for the NHS in Scotland.
The Scottish Government has been informed of RCN members overwhelming rejection of the offer.
A postal ballot will open on 15 September for four weeks and will ask RCN members within the NHS in Scotland if they would like to take industrial action, including a complete withdrawal of labour.
If enough members vote for strike action, it will be the first time in RCN history that members in Scotland go on strike.
The ballot comes in response to the 5% pay award which has been offered by the Scottish Government for 2022-23.
The RCN had called for a pay rise for nursing staff of 5% above inflation, which is currently at 11.8%.
This ballot runs at the same time as similar ballots for RCN members in England and Wales.
Julie Lamberth, chair of the RCN Scotland Board, said: “Given the unprecedented response to our recent ballot and the overwhelming rejection of the Scottish Government’s offer, we have no option but to move towards a statutory ballot for industrial strike action.
“In all my years in nursing I have never known such strength of determination amongst nursing staff,” he said.
In a message to members, he added: “After years of staff shortages and underpayment, your vote in the upcoming ballot will be essential in turning the tide on low pay.”
It will be an official ballot that could lead to strike action if voted for and if it achieves a 50% response rate from the membership, as required by law.
Industrial action can take various forms, such as work-to-rule, where nurses do no more than the minimum required by the rules of their contract, including the number of hours they work. It could also include complete withdrawal of labour or strike.
“A lifetime of service must never mean a lifetime of poverty”
While the RCN said it believed strike action should always be a last resort, it warned that the current staffing crisis was causing “unacceptable risk” to patients and staff.
Pat Cullen, RCN general secretary and 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.
“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.”
Ms Lamberth urged members to check that the college had their up-to-date home addresses and employer details, so they are able to cast their vote.
The Scottish ballot will close on 13 October, the same day that the ballots close for England and Wales.
Whereas in Northern Ireland, a formal pay announcement is yet to be announced.
The Scottish government were contacted for comment.