Nursing leaders involved in a pay dispute with the Scottish Government are considering their next steps after a ballot of members found that almost six out of 10 could be prepared to go on strike.
An indicative ballot for the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) found that as well as the 58% who would be prepared to go on strike, almost nine in 10 (89.5%) were prepared to take industrial action short of a strike.
This could see nursing staff refusing to work over time, starting and finishing shifts on time and taking all their breaks.
A formal strike ballot would be required before any action could be sanctioned.
The RCN said the results of the indicative ballot “demonstrates how difficult things are within the NHS”.
The union launched a formal dispute with the Scottish Government over pay in June after rejecting a deal put forward by ministers which gives NHS workers an average 4% rise.
Despite this the pay deal was implemented after being accepted by other unions.
RCN leaders carried out the indicative ballot of members working in the NHS in Scotland over October and November.
Although less than 30% of the union’s eligible members responded, leaders are considering their next moves.
Julie Lamberth, chairwoman of the RCN Scotland Board, said: “The thought of taking industrial action does not sit well with nursing staff. So the response from members to our indicative ballot demonstrates how difficult things are within the NHS.
“The Scottish Government must act now to protect patient safety and ensure we can retain and recruit the nursing workforce Scotland needs.”
Graham Revie, chairman of the RCN trade union committee, said: “The years of being undervalued have taken their toll and the pressure of the pandemic has left many considering their future in the profession.
“The link between low pay, staff shortages and patient safety is clear.
“We will now be considering our next steps in our campaigns to achieve staffing for safe and effective care and fair pay for nursing.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP said: “The fact that nurses are set to strike should set alarm bells ringing among the SNP Government.
“Nurses have gone above and beyond during the pandemic and it is clear they are now past breaking point.”
He added that “nurses voting for strike action is endemic of the crisis engulfing our NHS” and urged Health Secretary Humza Yousaf to “urgently intervene”.
Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie described the ballot result as “an historic moment that should shame the SNP”.
Ms Baillie, the Scottish Labour deputy leader, said: “The overwhelming demand for action shows just how badly nurses have been treated.
“It is a disgrace that they have been pushed to this unprecedented measure in the aftermath of their heroic efforts during the pandemic.
“Nobody wants to strike, but applause doesn’t pay bills.
“The SNP must give nurses the fair deal they deserve so we can avoid the need for industrial action.”
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