Nurses working at England’s health and care regulator have voted in favour of industrial action over their latest pay award and have secured a mandate to strike, it has been announced.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) today unveiled the results of its ballot of members employed by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
Of the 60% of its members who took participated in the ballot, 55.5% voted to take strike action, said the RCN.
In addition, some 85% voted in favour of industrial action short of strike, meaning they would work strictly to the terms of their contract by taking their breaks and starting and finishing shifts on time – also known as “working to rule”.
The RCN now has a mandate for both forms of industrial action for its CQC members, after it met the 50% turnout legal threshold.
The union Unison has also achieved a mandate for strike action of its CQC members after 73% of those who voted opted for strike action and 92% for action short of strike. The union saw a turnout of 67%.
The RCN and Unison are among five unions that have been balloting CQC staff over their most recent 2022-23 pay award.
In December 2022, the CQC imposed a pay award between 2.75% and 3.75%, as well as a one-off payment of between £100 and £150.
This is much lower than the 5% plus inflation pay rise that unions had been calling for.
Barry Hutchinson, RCN national officer (employment relations), said: “We would like to thank all members who took part in this statutory ballot on industrial action.
“By voting in favour of industrial action, you’re sending a loud and clear message that enough is enough. CQC staff deserve better.”
He added: “As your professional union, we are determined to continue to fight for fair pay for nursing for all our members, including those working outside the NHS, to ensure the profession is respected, protected and valued.”
The news comes as strike action of NHS staff in England remains on pause while unions continue negotiations with the government on an additional pay increase for Agenda for Change staff for 2022-23.
Unison national officer Matthew Egan said: “CQC staff have had to put up with their pay rising at a much lower rate than inflation for more than a decade.
“Despite doing incredibly important work, staff have endured mounting financial hardship and watched as colleagues have departed for better paid work elsewhere.
“It’s not hard to see why so many have voted to strike,” he said.
Mr Egan claimed CQC staff earned “significantly less than staff doing comparable jobs at organisations like NHS England and the Nursing and Midwifery Council”.
Responding to the strike announcements, a CQC spokesperson said: “We have received early indication from Unison and RCN that members have voted in favour of strike action and are awaiting further details.
“We will remain in close contact with the unions as this develops,” they said.
The CQC also said it was restricted by civil service pay guidelines and claimed it had worked closely with unions to give the maximum pay award it was able to last year.