FEBRUARY 7, 2023

By Harry Mottram: For the second day in a row, members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) at the Royal United Hospitals in Bath (RUH) have taken strike action in support of their demands for fair pay.

The RCN said in a statement: “Strike action will take place at all workplaces covered by this employer. The strike will be across all dayshifts, no matter when these are.”

The BBC’s Dan O’Brien, Karen Gardner, Paddy Tracey & Paul Barltrop reported on the dispute in Bath and across the South West. They wrote on the BBC’s website: “Nurses and paramedics across the west have joined the biggest strikes in the NHS’s history in a bid for better pay and conditions. Staff at some of the region’s biggest hospitals were on the picket line in freezing conditions on Monday morning. Nurses are calling for a pay increase of 19%, while paramedics want a rise in line with inflation, or around 10%. The government says the door is open for negotiations but that it can not afford to meet the unions’ demands.”

The RCN said nurses have the right to strike and said the public could show their support for striking nursing staff by visiting picket lines. Hits Radio aired a video on Twitter with interviews with RUH nurses on the picket line – in the back ground motorists were sounding their support for the nurses. One of the nurses said too many nurses were leaving the profession due to low pay and conditions. Another one said they wanted the Government to negotiate with the RCN to bring an end to the dispute.

Photograph of the nurses at the RUH on strike this week from the BBC

The man at the centre of those potential negotiations is the MP Steve Barclay Secretary of State for Health and Social Care who took on the post in October when Rishi Sunak became PM. Ahead of the current nurses’ strike he said the independent pay review body would decide on the pay levels for nurses but told Sky News that a 10% pay increase for nurses was not affordable, as it would cost  an extra £3.6bn a year taking money away from patient services.

The health secretary told Sky News: “I have discussions with the Treasury, as do other secretaries of state, and these things need to be balanced not just with the needs of teachers, with the education secretary, or train drivers, with the transport secretary, but also what’s affordable for your viewers in terms of their own cost of living pressures.”

The RCN said a statement: “We expect to see a pay award that goes 5% above inflation (the retail prices index). We reached our pay position for 2022-23 in close collaboration with our members across the UK. We carried out an analysis of economic trends and NHS pay over the past decade. We also considered the staffing pressures facing the profession.”

Currently the Consumer Prices Index for Inflation in December 2022 is 10.5%.

The black and white photo is of the Oxford picket line and is from the RCN.

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