Nurses are being asked to vote on whether to take industrial action over a pay dispute with the Scottish Government.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is balloting members after rejecting the pay rise offered by the Government and warned that nurses had been ” undervalued and under-resourced” for a decade.
Scotland’s Health Secretary Humza Yousaf previously described the offer of an average 4% increase was “the biggest pay rise in 20 years and the best in the entire UK”.
The indicative ballot will be open until midday on Monday November 8 and seeks to establish what industrial action RCN members would be willing to take.
The RCN, which is calling for a 12.5% pay rise, will also ask staff in England over the coming weeks if they are willing to take action short of a strike, such as working their contracted hours only, or a complete withdrawal of labour.
Chairwoman of the RCN Scotland board, Julie Lamberth, said: “After 18 months of bearing the brunt of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic and a decade of being undervalued and under-resourced, more and more nursing staff are saying enough is enough.
“The Scottish Government and NHS employers need to stop paying lip service to the immense contribution nursing staff make to health and care services.
“They need to take very seriously our concerns about what’s happening now and what will happen in the future without effective action.
“We want to see effective measures to stop experienced staff walking away from their jobs, and a fair pay award that properly recognises our skills, expertise and level of responsibility and maintains nursing as an attractive career choice for the younger generation.
“The Scottish Government did improve the offer to senior staff on higher pay bands after pressure from the RCN but while that was welcome it’s not enough.
“It’s a last resort and extremely difficult decision for nursing staff even to consider industrial action. It’s now up to RCN members to decide what the next steps will be.”
RCN trade union committee chairman Graham Revie added: “Our members were very clear in telling the Scottish government that the NHS pay award was completely unacceptable – it fails the test of fairness and it fails to address the current crisis by not taking action to safely staff our wards and clinics.
“With the vote open across Scotland, the power is once again in the hands of nursing staff.
“I urge as many members as possible to speak up and tell us whether they believe industrial action is needed to turn things around for our patients.”
Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Tuesday, he suggested nurses were “very angry” at the situation, with a “worrying number” ready to quit.
“Nurses are under increasing amounts of stress with the pandemic, and it’s not over,” Mr Revie said.
“Also the fact that winter pressures are now coming on, many nurses are actually considering whether they want to stay part of the profession at this moment in time – and the government can do something.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “NHS Scotland nurses are the best paid in the UK, and the pay deal, which has been agreed by the majority of unions and NHS staff, is the biggest pay rise in 20 years and the best in the entire UK.
“We recognise the tremendous service our nurses have given during the pandemic, which is one of the reasons we provided a £500 bonus to them at the turn of the year that was in addition to their increased pay.
“The pay increase in Scotland was 4% backdated to December 2020, while in England and Wales the increase was 3% and was not backdated to December.
“The Health Secretary Humza Yousaf met with representatives from the RCN earlier this month and we continue to engage in constructive discussions.”