England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

RCN: Vote for further strike action!

By Connor Rosoman

Last month, nurses took historic strike action after rejecting the deal proposed by the government, bravely showing the Tories, patients and wider public that this is truly a fight to save the NHS. After years of wage stagnation, as part of a wider strategy from the Tory government of grinding down and selling off our NHS, the determination of RCN members to fight back – and to see that fight through to the end – is clear.

Lively pickets at hospitals around England, Wales and Scotland, and a determined RCN conference have demonstrated the mood that exists to carry on the fight to make the government pay up and give health workers what they deserve after serving on the front lines during the pandemic.

Ballots for the next round of action opened on 23 May and close on 23 June. It will be crucial for RCN and rank-and-file organising networks like NHS Workers Say No (which played a key role in mobilising the vote to reject the government’s previous pay offer) to fight for the highest turnout possible, to smash the Tories’ undemocratic ballot thresholds and guarantee a mandate for further strike action.

The next step will be to look to take coordinated action alongside other workers on strike – a move which would immensely strengthen the NHS strikes. The approach taken by the RCN leadership so far, of actively avoiding coordination, has only lowered the sights of the dispute – not least in convincing a section of staff to vote to accept a 5% pay offer, trailing woefully behind inflation. The paltry pay ‘rise’ should have been rejected out of hand with a clear recommendation from the leadership!

Equally important is a clear strategy for escalation in order to force the government’s hand. A health workers’ conference, drawing together workers across the different health unions, could serve as a launchpad for coordinating between activists and drawing up a fighting strategy to win the pay rise nurses deserve, and to fight back against the decimation of our health service.

We say:

  • We need a resounding vote to continue the action. Fight for the full pay claim!
  • Coordinate with the BMA and UNITE to build a cross-union campaign to re-open the pay disputes across the National Health Service. We need above-inflation pay rises for this year and last!
  • For a national conference of health workers to discuss the way forward across the unions.
  • For the regular election of all senior paid union officials and negotiators. For the right of recall over all elected positions!
  • For socialist policies to rebuild our health service. Reverse all privatisation, nationalise the pharmaceutical companies. For a fully-funded public healthcare system under democratic control and management of health workers, patients, and wider society.

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