Leaders of a nursing union have said that they have “no option” but to ask members to vote for strike action for the first time in over 100 years.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland on Thursday began balloting its members for strike action for the first time in the union’s 106 year history.
Chair of the RCN Scotland board, Julie Lamberth, is urging staff to support a strike and warned that without action, the situation facing nurses can only get worse.
She said: “That we have got to this point is simply shocking, but we have been left with no option. For years we have been overlooked and undervalued. Expected to carry on regardless. Patient care is suffering, staffing levels are unsafe and members are facing a daily battle of how to feed their family, heat their homes and travel to their work.
“None of this is new, and as we head into another winter, we know it’s only going to get worse. This is our opportunity to take a stand, for our patients and our profession, to show the Scottish Government that they must act now, and is why I am urging members to vote in favour of strike action.”
The trade union Unison is already balloting more than 50,000 health workers on strike action, while the Royal College of Midwives in Scotland opened its ballot last month.
Health secretary Humza Yousaf has promised NHS staff he will make a “significantly improved” offer after the record 5% pay rise put forward by the Scottish Government was rejected.
Speaking on Wednesday, he said: “I will be doing everything in my power to prevent industrial action from taking place, which includes in our next meeting with trade unions coming forward with a significantly improved pay offer for them.”
Colin Poolman, RCN Scotland director said: “Nursing staff will always put patient safety first and our members will not take the decision to vote for strike action lightly.
“They have been forced into this position by the failure of the Scottish Government to address the nursing workforce crisis and to ensure nursing staff are paid fairly for the safety critical work that they do.
“Ministers must come back with a significantly improved offer that responds to our members’ concerns.”