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The Prime Minister has no place left to hide

Pat Cullen 3 Feb 2023 Chief Executive and General Secretary

With a new offer from the Welsh government and strikes in Wales cancelled, Pat Cullen renews her call for the PM to come to the negotiating table.

Pat Cullen speaking into a megaphone

If the Prime Minister needs a lesson on how to engage properly with us, he need look no further than Edinburgh or Cardiff. Our strike action in Scotland is suspended while we negotiate with the Scottish government. And today we have also cancelled next week’s planned strike action in Wales as the Welsh government has reopened the 2022/23 pay deal with an improved offer. We will put this to our members in Wales through a consultation that will launch in the coming days.

The Prime Minister must come out of hiding. It is within his gift to call off next week’s strikes in England if he would open formal pay talks. If he refuses, our members in England will take to the picket lines once again, in two consecutive days of action on Monday and Tuesday, continuing the fight for fair pay. You are doing your profession proud by committing to something much greater than any of us might imagine. It’s about fairness, equal access to care, and making things right. You are doing more than your fair share by keeping patients safe whether you’re on shift or on a picket line.

They say a week is a long time in politics – in which case, 100 days is certainly long enough for the Prime Minister to have begun making the changes urgently needed to protect the NHS.

However, rather than grasp the challenge, the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has spent the first 100 days of his premiership avoiding the truth, side-stepping reasonable dialogue and shifting responsibility on to the shoulders of hard-working nursing staff.

Yesterday we delivered a letter to 10 Downing Street, signed by over 100,000 members of the public, nursing staff and patients, all calling for the Prime Minister to pay nursing staff fairly. Public support has been unwavering in our ongoing pay dispute. I know many of you have witnessed, as have I, the kindness of strangers on picket lines, popping by with drinks, food, words of solidarity and deeds of support.

We are taking action for fairness – following centuries of communities fighting for their right to live safely, in good health. You will know that February is LGBT History month, a history of action and advocacy fighting for rights in every corner of legislation as well as health care. I’m looking forward to seeing many rainbows on the picket lines in England that I visit next week. The RCN and the nursing profession is committed to supporting those facing discrimination, lobbying for inclusive health care settings, tackling health inequalities and creating a fairer society for all.

For weeks, the news has been dominated by our strike action. It is our democratic right, our professional duty and I believe, our moral obligation to speak out when things aren’t right or fair. And the public agrees with us. Yet the UK government has reacted to the will of the people by moving to implement anti-strike legislation, which I believe is not only ill thought-out but insulting.

As you plan for strike action next week, visit our Strike Hub for all you need to know. We are in testing times, and I do not underestimate the huge sacrifices you are making in our fight for fair pay. If you’re taking strike action, you can apply for financial support through our benefit fund for each day you strike. Thousands of claims from the first days of action have already been paid to members.

Booking is now open for our annual Congress too. Join us in Brighton from 14-18 May 2023. Whether you've attended before or you're a first timer, now is the time to come together with other members at our annual event, RCN Congress. Conversations around nursing are shifting because of your efforts – your voice needs to continue to be heard on the issues that matter most.

Pat Cullen

Pat Cullen

General Secretary and Chief Executive

Pat has worked at the RCN since 2016. Before being appointed General Secretary and Chief Executive, Pat was Director of RCN Northern Ireland from May 2019 to April 2021.

Page last updated - 25/07/2023