Around 10,000 nurses are being asked whether they are willing to strike over the government’s latest pay awards under an indicative ballot launched by the GMB union.
The union opened its ballot to NHS staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on Tuesday and is urging its members to vote in favour of taking strike action.
It comes as the nursing regulator released a new statement outlining its position on industrial action yesterday afternoon.
Most NHS nurses across England and Wales have been handed a £1,400 increase for the 2022-23 cycle – in line with the NHS Pay Review Body’s recommendations.
Meanwhile, staff in Northern Ireland continue to wait for an official pay award this year. Health minister Robin Swann has confirmed his intention to move in line with the £1,400 increase recommended, but said his hands were currently tied due to budget uncertainties.
Separately, the government in Scotland, which has broken away from the pay review body process, had offered its NHS nurses a 5% rise earlier this year. The GMB has not opened its ballot to members in Scotland.
The GMB ballot is indicative, meaning it is testing the appetite of its members for strike action.
This is different to the formal ballots being launched across the UK by the Royal College of Nursing and Unison – which if voted for, and provided they meet legal ballot requirements, would see industrial action take place.
In recent weeks, nurses have told Nursing Times they feel “hurt” and “disrespected” by the NHS pay awards and have described “a shift in mood” across NHS staff who are now ready to act.
GMB, which has around 10,000 nurse members, will ballot its NHS members between 30 August and 27 September.
Rachel Harrison, GMB national officer, said: “After more than ten years of pay cuts and a gruelling two years on the pandemic front line, NHS staff face yet more punishment from this pay offer.
“Health workers are using foodbanks and cancelling their pension contributions to make ends meet.
“It’s not right and we shouldn’t expect them to take it lying down.”
In March this year, nurses were among 50 NHS members of GMB who marched to parliament to protest against the government’s latest pay recommendation, ahead of the chancellor’s spring statement.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We have accepted the independent pay review body’s recommendations in full but without additional funding from the UK Government, there are inevitably limits to how far we can go in Wales. We continue to press it to pass on the funding necessary for full and fair pay rises for public sector workers.
“While it is disappointing GMB is proceeding to a ballot, we have committed to continue to explore a range of other issues raised as part of our discussions with trade unions.”