Nursing and midwifery staff in Scotland are prepared to strike over pay, unions have announced today.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), Royal College of Midwives (RCM), Unite, Unison and GMB have all rejected the 5% pay offer from the Scottish Government, with the majority voting in favour of taking strike action in consultative ballots.
The RCN said that the number of Scottish members voting on the pay offer “more than doubled”, compared to a similar ballot last year, with more than 90% of RCN’s members voting to reject the pay offer.
Unite Scotland and the GMB have also announced that NHS staff are “prepared to strike”, with members voting to reject the pay offer 89% and 97% respectively.
The RCM said it saw the highest ever turnout for an RCM pay consultation, with almost 90% of members voting to be formally balloted on industrial action.
For Unison, 83% of respondents voted to take industrial action over pay.
Each of the NHS trade unions stated their position on the government’s offer today at the Scottish Terms and Conditions Committee (STAC), the body for collective pay bargaining for the NHS in Scotland.
The Scottish Government has been informed of nursing and midwifery staff overwhelming rejection of the pay offer.
For the RCN, a postal ballot will open on 15 September for four weeks and will ask RCN members within the NHS in Scotland if they would like to take industrial action, including a complete withdrawal of labour.
Unison has also announced that it will launch a ballot for its 50,000 members on 3 October.
Unite, GMB and the RCM are yet to announce their ballot dates, but are set to in the coming weeks.
The ballots come in response to the 5% pay award which has been offered by the Scottish Government for 2022-23.
The RCN had called for a pay rise for nursing staff of 5% above inflation, which is currently at 11.8%.
Julie Lamberth, chair of the RCN Scotland Board, said: “Given the unprecedented response to our recent ballot and the overwhelming rejection of the Scottish Government’s offer, we have no option but to move towards a statutory ballot for industrial strike action.
“In all my years in nursing I have never known such strength of determination amongst nursing staff,” he said.
In a message to members, she added: “After years of staff shortages and underpayment, your vote in the upcoming ballot will be essential in turning the tide on low pay.”
These will be official ballots that could lead to strike action if they are voted for and if they achieves a 50% response rate from the membership, as required by law.
Industrial action can take various forms, such as work-to-rule, where nurses do no more than the minimum required by the rules of their contract, including the number of hours they work. It could also include complete withdrawal of labour or strike.
Matt McLaughlin, Unison Scotland head of health, called on the government to intervene and avoid strikes.
He said: “This is the first time since devolution that NHS workers have been balloted for strike over pay, the First Minister must step in now to ensure that Unison members get a fair deal on pay and that we avoid the need for workplace stoppages as we approach the winter.”
These ballots run at the same time as similar ballots for RCN members in England and Wales.
Whereas in Northern Ireland, a formal pay announcement is yet to be announced.
Scotland’s health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “While we respect the mandate given to trade unions, I am disappointed they have voted to reject the record 5% pay deal for NHS Scotland Agenda for Change (AfC) staff, and are now holding ballots for industrial action.
“We will consider the next steps and look to re-engage with trade unions as soon as we can, and hope to reach a satisfactory outcome.”