Royal College of Nursing picket line. Royal College of Nursing picket line. Photo: portemolitor on Flickr.

The secret nurse on where health workers stand now and what their options are

It’s likely the majority of unions on NHS council will vote to accept the government’s paltry offer, at their meeting on Tuesday.

But our fight is not over. Those of us who voted reject have the option of fighting on for a better deal. The government will implement the deal. They will pay the one off lump sum for 2022/23 and implement 5% for this year.

Our precedent for fighting on is 2021/22, when the government imposed a one-off award of £1,400. But when unions fought for more, talks were reopened and another 6% was magically found. We can do the same now. The rejecting unions, the RCN, Unite and the Society of Radiographers, have the option to fight on, even while the paltry award is implemented.

Next steps

What we must do now is to offer maximum solidarity to RCN and Unite strikes this weekend. Visit the pickets, offer online support and publicise widely. Explain to

colleagues how we can and must take our fight to the limit.

We have to make clear to RCN members they have nothing at all to lose by voting yes for strike action. They will already have been paid the lump sum and the 5% is in the bank. We must immediately start campaigning for the new strike ballot, which Pat Cullen has announced will launch in mid-May. We must not allow unions to renege on this pledge.

If we fail to persist now, momentum will be lost, and it may be harder than before to mobilise a new campaign. Uniting with junior doctors who are holding their ground, and with Society of radiographers who have voted reject can form a powerful campaign force. And such a move would of course galvanise many Yes voters, who only reluctantly accepted the government’s offer due to desperation.

It is possible for further strikes to win a pay progression for nurses. Where they start on a band 5, or an enhanced career progression, so that so many are not dumped in Band 5 territory, while operating a band 6 or 7 skillset. Or we might win a national recruitment and retention premium for all nurses.Staff in unions which have voted to accept can fully support these campaigns also.

We owe it to ourselves and to the future of the NHS to use all the tools at our disposal to fight on to a win. Remember the test of one’s strength is not your victories but how you respond to knock backs.

We may be down but it is we who decide whether we’re out or not!

Meanwhile, don’t forget to register for the How To Fight How, To Win Rank and File conference on 10 June.

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