NURSES in Wales have announced the dates of their first strikes, which will take place next month.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has today (Friday) announced that strike action will take place on Thursday 15 and Tuesday 20 December.
The announcement comes after the governments in Wales, England and Northern Ireland turned down the RCN’s offer of formal, detailed negotiations as an alternative to strike action.
RCN Wales announced that nursing staff at all NHS employers across Wales had voted to take strike action over pay and patient safety, however Aneurin Bevan University Health Board unfortunately did not meet the legal threshold.
An experienced nurse has seen their pay decline by at least 20 per cent in real terms due to successive below-inflation awards since 2010.
In 2021/22, NHS Wales spent £133.4m on agency nursing, an increase of 41% on the previous year. This is equivalent to the salaries of 4,930 newly qualified nurses.
RCN Wales Director, Helen Whyley, said: “Wales’ First Minister has had more than two weeks since we confirmed our historic result on the RCN’s statutory ballot for industrial action, where our members voted overwhelmingly for strike action. We have been met with silence.
“The Welsh government was allocated an extra £1.2bn in the Autumn Statement. RCN Wales has called for the Welsh government to enter meaningful conversations regarding nursing pay as a final chance for ministers to put a stop to the action that nursing staff feel they have no other option but to take. Still, we hear nothing.
“A debate was held in the Senedd last night to urge the Welsh government to use everything in their disposal to give nursing staff the pay and recognition they deserve. Clearly the reality of strike action on the horizon is setting in for some ministers and the realisation of the profound effect this will have in Wales and across the UK. And yet, still nothing from the Welsh government.”
RCN Wales Board Chair, Richard Jones MBE, said: “We have given every opportunity to put a stop to what is a last resort for nursing staff, but the time has now come to stand up for our nurses who are pushed to their limits and patients who are suffering as a result of lack of planning and investment in the workforce.
“This is the first time in the history of the RCN in Wales that nurses have decided to strike – what more is there to say?”
Earlier this week, politicians in Wales called on the Welsh Government to ‘get back around the table’ and negotiate.
On Wednesday, Senedd members voted in favour of the motion calling on the Welsh Government to meet with the Royal College of Nursing Wales.
Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister and Montgomeryshire MS Russell George said: “This winter nurses across Wales will be going on strike and yet the Labour Health Minister hasn’t met with them to discuss their concerns on fair pay and safe staffing.
“It really shouldn’t have taken the Senedd to vote in this way to formally encourage the Health Minister to do what she should be doing in the first place.
“Sadly, this vote isn’t binding but I hope the Labour Government hear our calls and finally pick up the phone to RCN Wales.”
Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price said: “Nurses are the backbone of our NHS but they have been driven to desperation due to poor pay and woeful working conditions.
“Those same nurses who protected us during the pandemic are now using foodbanks and crying after their shifts because of the pressure they are under and the sense that they’re under-valued.
“We believe that those who care for us should be cared for in return.
“That’s why we’re telling the Welsh Government to go back to the negotiating table."
Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader and Mid and West Wales MS Jane Dodds said:
“Because of the dire economic circumstances we find ourselves in, every single pay award offer the Welsh Government offer nurses below that level is a real terms pay cut.
“That’s why the Welsh Government should do everything in its power to deliver on a real pay rise for our nurses – to address the recruitment and retention crisis in the Welsh NHS.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said it will work on contingency plans to ensure public safety, adding: “We recognise why so many nurses voted the way they did and we agree nurses should be fairly rewarded for their important work.
WHICH SERVICES WILL BE AFFECTED
Nursing staff who voted in favour of industrial action
· Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board
· Cardiff and Vale University Health Board
· Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board
· Digital Health and Care Wales
· Health Education and Improvement Wales
· Hywel Dda University Health Board
· NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership
· Powys Teaching Health Board
· Public Health Wales
· Swansea Bay University Health Board
· Velindre University NHS Trust
· Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust