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A senior Conservative source has raised concerns that hard left extremists whose aim is to bring down the government are influencing the RCN’s decision on whether to end strike action.
The warning comes as almost 300,000 members of the RCN in England are being asked to renew their mandate for industrial action until the end of the year.
The union met with the Corbynite leaders of the hard-left NHS Workers Say No group which has links with Extinction Rebellion.
Pat Cullen, RCN chief executive and general secretary, is reported to have spent ‘some time’ with Harry Eccles, one of the group, who posted a picture of himself with her and fellow hard left activists.
The RCN is urging members to vote “yes” to strike action, saying it would pressure ministers to improve the pay award for nursing staff and boost staffing levels to keep patients safe.
RCN members rejected the Government’s pay offer in April after several days of strike action which have taken place since Decemeber.
The RCN’s new ballot will be aggregated, meaning the union is seeking a country-wide mandate to allow strikes in every NHS trust or other NHS employer in England where RCN members work.
Any future strikes would involve more than twice as many nursing staff at twice as many locations, said the RCN.
To achieve a country-wide mandate, 50 percent of all eligible members must vote and the majority must say “yes” to strike action.
The ballot will close on June 23, with the result expected to be announced the following week.
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NHS Workers Say No are part of an alliance that includes Extinction Rebellion, Black Lives Matter, Don’t Pay UK and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
They are “demanding systemic change to tackle the interconnected crises of climate, cost of living, and politics”.
The Conservative source said: “The government’s fair and reasonable pay offer was accepted by a majority of NHS unions and was recommended by the RCN so it’s disappointing that their leadership now seems to be teaming up with hard-left campaigners to put politics above patients.
“It is time to put industrial action behind us and work together to cut waiting lists and ensure that patients get the care they need.”
A majority of unions voted to accept the pay offer made by the government which will give NHS staff a one-off payment of between £1,655 and £3,789 for last year, on top of the £1,400-a-head they had already received as well as a 5 per cent consolidated pay rise for this year.
However, the RCN narrowly rejected this and have started to adopt a more partisan tone. At its recent conference speeches notes it sasid that: ‘The NHS strikes are part of a social and political struggle’ and that they seek to ‘defeat’ the government.
Pat Cullen is urging her members to back more strike action.
She said: “Once again, we have been forced to ask our members if they want to take to the picket lines in their fight for fair pay. This is unfinished business and the Government can get it resolved without the need for more strike action.
“Ministers have tried to silence them through the courts as well as in Parliament but we will continue to make sure their voice is heard through the corridors of power.
“The NHS is fraying at the edges. To improve care and address the shortage, Government must bring more people into nursing and keep them there by paying staff fairly.”
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