NURSES in most of Wales will hold two days of strikes in December as part of an ongoing dispute over pay.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) made the announcement after it said "the governments in Wales, England and Northern Ireland turned down the offer of formal, detailed negotiations as an alternative to strike action".

In Wales, union members at six of the nation's seven health boards voted in favour of strikes, but in the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board area the number of votes cast fell short of the 50 per cent threshold, meaning there will be no nursing strikes in Gwent.

The union's announcement comes after the Welsh Government narrowly survived a Senedd vote demanding a better pay offer for nurses. The RCN said the first days of strike action will take place on December 15 and 20.


Helen Whyley, director of RCN, said the union had been "met with silence" from Mark Drakeford since its members "voted overwhelmingly" in favour of industrial action a fortnight ago.

The Welsh Government, which runs the NHS in Wales, has repeatedly said it favours a fair pay offer for nurses but is constrained by the money it receives from Westminster.

But Ms Whyley said the Welsh Government should return to the negotiating table following the UK chancellor's most recent budget update.

"The Welsh Government was allocated an extra £1.2bn in the Autumn Statement," she said. "RCN Wales has called for the Welsh Government to enter meaningful conversations regarding nursing pay as a final chance for ministers to put a stop to the action that nursing staff feel they have no other option but to take. Still, we hear nothing.   

"A debate was held in the Senedd [on Wednesday] to urge the Welsh Government to use everything in their disposal to give nursing staff the pay and recognition they deserve.

"Clearly the reality of strike action on the horizon is setting in for some ministers and the realisation of the profound effect this will have in Wales and across the UK. And yet, still nothing from the Welsh Government."

'We recognise the anger and disappointment'

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "We recognise why so many nurses voted the way they did and we agree nurses should be fairly rewarded for their important work. We also recognise the anger and disappointment many public sector workers are feeling at the moment.

"In Wales we value social partnership and we continue to meet the trade unions regularly to discuss a range of issues affecting the workforce. However, we are unable to increase our pay offer without additional funding being made available by the UK Government.

"Following the ballot result, we will work with NHS organisations and health boards on their contingency plans. The public should be assured that arrangements will be made with RCN Wales to ensure there will always be a safe level of staffing, with life-saving and life-maintaining care being provided during any industrial action."

'Devastating consequences'

In the Senedd this week, Plaid Cymru attempted to force fresh talks by tabling a motion compelling the Welsh Government to "utilise every devolved lever at its disposal to make an improved pay offer for NHS nurses in Wales".

"What I'm seeing is a government preparing for the nurses' strike action, when we should have a government trying to avert that strike action in the first place," Plaid MS Rhun ap Iorwerth said.

Russell George, the Welsh Conservatives' shadow health minister, said a strike "will have devastating consequences for patients".

Eluned Morgan, the health minister, said she was "saddened that, in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, we are unable to give nurses, our NHS staff and our wider public sector staff an inflation-matching pay award, because our funding settlement falls far short of what is needed to meet these significant pressures that they and we face".

The Welsh Government survived the Plaid motion, which received 25 votes in favour and 25 votes against, with the Senedd's presiding officer casting the deciding ballot.

The Senedd instead voted in favour of an amended motion calling on the Welsh Government "to meet with the Royal College of Nursing Wales to discuss its campaign for fair pay and safe staffing to avoid strike action this winter".