Trade union laws and the lack of online voting have brought the NHS nurses’ strikes to an end.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) union’s ballot on further industrial action closed on 23 June. Prior to the results, the union was uncertain if sufficient numbers of members could get their postal votes in on time.
The Trade Union Act 2016 stipulates that at least 50% of union members must vote in a postal ballot for its result to stand.
Following the results from the RCN ballot, it was found that, of the 122,000 votes that had been sent in, 84% of members voted for further industrial action. However, this was less than the approximately 140,000 ballots which were required under government legislation.
The RCN launched its first national strike in December 2022, calling for a 19% pay rise as nurses’ wages had fallen in real terms since the Conservative Party came to power.
After the RCN and other health unions conducted further strike action in January and February, the NHS Staff Council voted to accept a pay deal, which included a 5% pay rise for 2023-24 and a one-off payment of at least £1,655 on top of the pay rise nurses received in 2022.
The RCN rejected the deal and organised strikes in April and May, which were deemed illegal by the High Court.
I know staff morale is low and the staffing crisis is set to worsen without immediate action
–Pat Cullen, General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing
11 NHS trusts in the West Midlands were affected by the previous nurses’ strikes.
The union’s General Secretary, Pat Cullen, wrote in an email to all members of the union:
“While this will be disappointing for many of you, the fight for the fair pay and safe staffing that our profession, our patients, and our NHS deserves, is far from over.
“This week, the government will say it has a plan for the NHS workforce. I am seeing the Prime Minister this afternoon to hear him out and to ask him the questions you wanted answering on his commitment to nurses and support workers.
“I know staff morale is low and the staffing crisis is set to worsen without immediate action. I will be telling him this today.”