Nurses in Wales are planning to strike again next year due to a “lack of engagement” from the Welsh Government, a union leader has warned. Helen Whyley, director of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in Wales, said she has written to ministers requesting a way forward to avoid more walkouts.
Members of RCN Wales braved freezing temperatures when they went on strike for the first time in history on December 15 and 20 over poor wages and chronic staff shortages. The union has a mandate to organise strikes runs until early May 2023, six months after members finished voting.
Dozens of nurses shared their stories of financial hardship and, at times, unbearable working conditions in which they claim patient safety was being put at risk. Some have resorted to taking on second jobs or have been driven to the point of leaving the profession altogether.
All Welsh health boards walked out on the two dates in December with the exception of Aneurin Bevan University Health Board as its RCN members did not reach the 50% turnout threshold needed for industrial action. The union has asked for 5% above the RPI rate of inflation which stands at over 12%, but the Welsh Government claims it cannot afford to increase pay without help from the UK Government.
Ms Whyley said she was “bitterly disappointed” to be going into the Christmas holidays without any resolution to this pay dispute. “Two days of strike action does not seem to have moved our Welsh Government ministers at all who continue to hide behind a funding row rather than focusing on resolving a Welsh dispute impacting on Welsh people,” she said.
“When I visited our picket lines, nurses told me they were facing this Christmas with heavy hearts. All of them know they will face staff shortages and nurses will barely be able to heat their homes let alone make the holidays special for their loved ones which they so deserve.
“The current situation within NHS Wales is deeply concerning with significant risks to patients from insufficient nursing staff and a struggling burnt out workforce. The RCN believe that the public deserves better and the way to retain and attract nursing staff is to reward them appropriately for the safety critical work that they do. The nursing workforce must be supported to provide high-quality patient care, and this must start with a significant and substantial pay rise.
“I have written to the Welsh Government this week requesting a way forward to avoid more strike action in Wales. If the Welsh Government does not make a genuine commitment to resolving this dispute new strike days will be announced in the new year.”
Nurses in England will go on strike on January 18 and 19, with further dates to be confirmed. A planned strike among ambulance staff GMB members for December 28 has been called off.
The Welsh Government has been asked to comment.
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