Wigan nurses to stage two strikes as national pay dispute escalates
Nurses at Wigan’s hospitals will head to the picket line next month as two fresh strikes are announced in an escalation of the pay dispute with the Government.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said that unless negotiations are opened, its members will walk out on January 18 and 19.
The action will take place at more NHS employers in England than happened this month – increasing from 44 to 55 trusts, said the RCN.
This will include staff at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (WWL), who voted in favour of industrial action but did not walk out on the initial strike days of December 15 and 20.
The trust’s sites include Wigan Infirmary, Leigh Infirmary, Wrightington Hospital, Thomas Linacre Centre and Boston House.
RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said: “The Government had the opportunity to end this dispute before Christmas but instead they have chosen to push nursing staff out into the cold again in January.
“I do not wish to prolong this dispute, but the Prime Minister has left us with no choice.
“The public support has been heart-warming and I am more convinced than ever that this is the right thing to do for patients and the future of the NHS.
“The voice of nursing will not be ignored. Staff shortages and low pay make patient care unsafe – the sooner ministers come to the negotiating table, the sooner this can be resolved. I will not dig in, if they don’t dig in.”
Silas Nicholls, WWL’s chief executive, said: “While pay is a matter for Government and the trade unions, WWL values our staff and wants to see a resolution as soon as possible to ensure that we can continue to deliver the best patient care to all those who need it.
“We are working with local trade unions across our system to ensure minimum disruption to patient care and are reviewing our bank holiday staffing plans to understand the potential direct impact on our nursing services.
“Please be assured that, during any strike action, emergency services will continue to operate as normal and that there are tried and tested plans in place to manage any disruption.”
The new nurse strike dates come after Unison announced its members at five ambulance services in England – including North West Ambulance Service – will walk out on January 11 and 23.
Meanwhile, the planned strike on December 28 by ambulance workers in the GMB union has been suspended.
Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said: “While union members will not be going ahead with strikes over Christmas, we are disappointed they have announced further co-ordinated strikes in January to cause maximum disruption at a time when the NHS is already under extreme pressure.
“Ambulance staff on picket lines have been raising concerns about working conditions and handover times, so it is important to use this extra time to keep talking about how we can make the NHS a better place to work. However, the unaffordable pay demands of unions would mean taking money away from frontline services and cause further delays to care.
“Strikes are in no-one’s best interest, least of all patients, and I urge unions to reconsider further industrial action to avoid an even greater impact on patients.”