Community nursing staff working at a social enterprise organisation in Lincolnshire have voted in favour of taking strike action over the “burning issue” of pay, terms and conditions.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) held an industrial action ballot with its members at Care Plus Group over July and 93% of those who responded said they were willing to go on strike.
“They have taken for granted their committed and hard-working nursing staff delivering NHS services to people across North East Lincolnshire”
The college said its members at the organisation were demanding “better pay and parity with nursing staff employed by the NHS on Agenda for Change terms and conditions of employment”.
Employing more than 800 staff, Care Plus Group provides community health and social care services for people across North East Lincolnshire including some commissioned by the NHS.
Among its services are community nursing, palliative and end-of-life care, specialist nursing such as diabetes, stroke and continence services, and older people’s care.
Sarah Dodsworth, the RCN’s regional director for Yorkshire and the Humber, said Care Plus Group had imposed below-inflation pay awards “for far too long”, and had refused to negotiate with the RCN on the 2021 and 2022 pay deals.
“They have taken for granted their committed and hard-working nursing staff delivering NHS services to people across North East Lincolnshire,” she warned.
“Despite this, [nursing staff at Care Plus Group] do not receive pay, terms and conditions that match Agenda for Change in the NHS and the employer continues to ignore the burning issue of pay parity.”
She added: “Our members deserve an urgent and fair conclusion to this pay dispute, which properly recognises their skills, experience and commitment to providing the safe and effective care that patients deserve.”
The RCN said its Yorkshire and the Humber board and committees would now urgently discuss next steps in response to the ballot result.
Lisa Revell, chief nurse and deputy chief executive at Care Plus Group, said the organisation recognised pressures facing staff but added that it needed to consider its financial sustainability.
“[Care Plus Group] recognise the impact on staff with rising inflation and the cost-of-living increases and we continue to strive to offer comparable salaries,” she said.
“We are an independent social business, not part of the NHS, and any pay increases need to be made considering our financial sustainability.
“We continue to work closely with Social Enterprise UK who are advocating nationally and with government for parity for social enterprises in relation to pay.
“The [Care Plus Group] board are regularly reviewing the financial position and looking at opportunities about future pay in conjunction with our financial sustainability.
“We value all staff and appreciate the roles they deliver in supporting our community, often in difficult circumstances.”
She added that Care Plus Group had been in regular communication with the RCN during the dispute and that it was working closely with the union to ensure minimal disruption to patient services during any future industrial action.
Meanwhile, the RCN has also announced an update on the pay dispute affecting its members working at the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
The CQC has put forward an improved offer for 2022-23, and RCN members are being asked to vote on whether they think it is acceptable or unacceptable.
“Any pay increases need to be made considering our financial sustainability”
The offer is for a £1,500 non-consolidated payment to go on top of the pay award imposed in December 2022 that provided increases of between 2.75% and 3.75%, depending on grade.
The consultative online ballot will run from 28 July to 12noon on 11 August 2023.
Since 17 April 2023, RCN members at the CQC have been engaged in industrial action short of strike, which has seen them working strictly to their terms and conditions, or ‘working to rule’.
The RCN has made clear that the consultative ballot is about the improved pay award and is not a vote on further industrial action.
However, it said if the majority of voting members think the pay award is acceptable, then its dispute with the CQC regarding pay for 2022-23 will end.
A CQC spokesperson said: “We will be paying all eligible CQC staff a one-off non-consolidated payment of £1,500 in August.
“We continue to work closely with trade unions and are aware that the RCN are balloting members working for CQC on whether this payment is acceptable to them.”