While it is looking ever more likely that RCN nurses in Guernsey are going to go on strike as part of an ongoing pay dispute, the process for industrial action is not simple.
There is a multi-staged process the union's members would need to go through, getting approval from each level of the Royal College of Nursing before finally having to make the decision to go through with it themselves.
Only if each of these levels agree that strike action is necessary and justified can it ever happen.
Last week, it was announced that RCN members were looking once again at striking because they overwhelmingly rejected the newest pay deal the States had offered them.
Pictured: Nurses and members of the public marched to protest their pay conditions earlier this year.
It is all part of a now-longstanding pay dispute between nurses and Policy & Resources. Nurses are saying they need better pay to give them equality, and also to make the island's health system more robust. The current poor pay conditions hurt recruitment and staff retention, making all of their jobs harder, they are claiming.
But Policy & Resources have so far not offered anything the RCN considers suitable. Its latest deal saw more senior nurses offered less, and while some nursing unions supported it, the RCN is the largest and put its foot down.
There are four stages that would all need to get the nod to allow nurses to strike though.
Firstly, they will meet tomorrow, 5 November, at their first meeting since they voted to reject the deal. Here, they will have to vote again on whether they would like to formally support the idea of industrial action.
After that, the idea is elevated to the RCN's South East Board, which deals with nurses through the South East of the UK and the Channel Islands. They would review the situation, look at the history of matters and see how things have got to this point. Only if they think industrial action is justified would the next stage be reached.
That would be for the same process to be carried out by the RCN's UK-wide body. And if they gave the go-ahead, the RCN Council would have the final say. Each of these steps would see matters independent reviewed.
If all of the other hurdles are jumped, the island's RCN members would meet again, and have another vote to deicide on whether to go ahead with a strike.
Pictured: HSC President Heidi Soulsby is caught in the middle of the pay row, as her committee does not technically pay or employ nurses, but P&R does.
What exactly would happen then is yet to be seen, as the nurses are all aware the service they provide cannot be covered for lightly. Deputy Heidi Soulsby, the President of Health & Social Care, urged P&R and Nurses some time ago to try and come to a deal before this point was reached.
Now, she said she hoped a fair resolution was reached before industrial action took place.
"HSC notes with interest the result of the RCN’s recent ballot and remains of the view that it is in the interest of all parties for a resolution to be reached as soon as possible," she said. "We are aware that the Policy & Resources Committee has lodged a formal dispute with the Industrial Disputes Officer and we hope that this will facilitate a swift and fair resolution.
"We are concerned that the possibility of industrial action has been raised but remain hopeful that this can be avoided. Should such action be taken, HSC will work closely with the Unions and colleagues to ensure that as far as possible any disruption to the public is minimised.”
Pictured top: the PEH.
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