The RCN will now consult with its 300,000 members who work in the NHS to ask them whether they would be prepared to support a ballot for industrial action. Under RCN rules, nurses are only permitted to take industrial action that is not harmful to patient care.
One form of industrial action that may be considered is for nurses to stop working unpaid overtime. Currently, around 173,000 nurses work an average of more than six hours unpaid overtime. This equates to over one million hours of unpaid overtime in the NHS each week.
Financial impact of industrial actions
The RCN estimates the difference between the staged and unstaged pay award is around £60 million. If nurses withdraw their goodwill and call a halt to working unpaid overtime, the NHS would be obliged to provide cover through agency or bank nurses. This would cost a minimum of £13 million every week.
In a little over four weeks the NHS would have to spend as much on paying bank and agency staff as it would have cost the Government to pay the unstaged deal recommended by the Pay Review Body.
Speaking following the decision RCN general secretary, Dr Peter Carter, said: 'Today's decision by Council was not arrived at lightly, but there are only so many times nurses can be asked to accept the unacceptable. Nurses are dedicated public servants who work hard and play by the rules. So, when we end up in a situation where nurses are forced to talk about industrial action, then we know that they have been pushed to the limit. This is a ludicrous position to find ourselves in and I urge the government to meet with us immediately to resolve this situation.'
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