today is Nov 30, 2022

The RCN is just one NHS union which has or is balloting its members over pay

The RCN is just one NHS union which has or is balloting its members over pay

Britain's biggest nursing union, which is orchestrating devastating strikes this winter, is advertising lucrative jobs abroad which pay thousands more than the NHS, MailOnline can reveal.

Roles posted on the Royal College of Nursing's in-house job site brag of being on the doorstep of beautiful beaches and amazing wine country. 

Salaries range from the equivalent of £43,000 to almost £80,000.

Recruiters also offer 'generous' relocation packages and thousands of pounds' worth of yearly perks, including meals and rent.  

For comparison, the average NHS nurse earns around £35,600.

Thinktanks today said it was 'ironic' that the 300,000-strong union is advertising for British nurses to leave the UK while simultaneously bemoaning staffing shortages.

The RCN, which insists strike action is a 'last resort', publicly says 'unfairly low pay in our profession is driving chronic understaffing'. 

It claims the workforce crisis, and the knock-on effects on NHS patients, is the 'only reason' it even contemplated industrial action.

Up to one in 10 nursing roles in England are currently vacant, with staff ditching roles for better-paid gigs in retail and hospitality.   

The ads hosted on the Royal College of Nurses website come at the time the union is arguing poor pay in the UK is exacerbating a staffing crisis in NHS hospitals

The ads hosted on the Royal College of Nurses website come at the time the union is arguing poor pay in the UK is exacerbating a staffing crisis in NHS hospitals 

One ad looking for mental health nurses touts South Australia's beaches and 'beautiful' wine region

One ad looking for mental health nurses touts South Australia's beaches and 'beautiful' wine region

Another for multiple nursing jobs in the Australian hubs of Sydney and Melbourne offers salaries will above the average in the NHS

Another for multiple nursing jobs in the Australian hubs of Sydney and Melbourne offers salaries will above the average in the NHS

Results of the union's ballot, the biggest in its 106-year history, are due tomorrow. A large majority are understood to have voted in favour of the strike.

Vital cancer and kidney disease treatments and routine operations may be axed if, as expected, tens of thousands of NHS nurses walk-out. 

Affected sites are only expected to offer 'Christmas Day' level of service on any strike days. Emergency care will not be disrupted. 

Ministers have been told they can still avoid the unprecedented strikes going ahead, if they are willing to stump up the the equivalent of £1billion. 

The RCN is demanding NHS nurses receive a pay rise of 5 per cent above inflation, which currently sits above 12 per cent.

This would grant the average nurse, who earns roughly £35,600 each year, an extra £6,000 annually.

The college is also advertising nursing jobs that pay far in excess of the £40,000 its seeking. 

South Australian nurse recruiters have boasted that British nurses who come to work there can enjoy the region's amazing wine country, in addition to a salary well above the UK average

South Australian nurse recruiters have boasted that British nurses who come to work there can enjoy the region's amazing wine country, in addition to a salary well above the UK average

Pictured here is Sydney's famous Bondi Beach, Australian nurse recruiters have touted the country's beautiful beaches as one off the  benefits of making a move Down Under

Pictured here is Sydney's famous Bondi Beach, Australian nurse recruiters have touted the country's beautiful beaches as one off the  benefits of making a move Down Under 

This graph shows the Royal College of Nursing's demands for a 5 per cent above inflation pay rise for the bands covered by its membership which includes healthcare assistants and nurses. Estimates based on NHS Employers data

This graph shows the Royal College of Nursing's demands for a 5 per cent above inflation pay rise for the bands covered by its membership which includes healthcare assistants and nurses. Estimates based on NHS Employers data

Royal College's council faces vote of no confidence after damning report into its toxic  culture 

The nursing union orchestrating devastating NHS strikes this winter was plunged into a fresh crisis today.

Royal College of Nursing officials face being voted out of their leadership positions at an extraordinary general meeting to be held later this month.

It follows a damming review into its toxic, male-dominated culture

The chaos comes just as the union is due to release the results of the largest strike action ballot in its history. Tens of thousands of NHS nurses are set to walk-out over pay in the coming months.

The independent report, conducted by Bruce Carr KC, was set up following internal accusations of sexual harassment and bullying. 

It found that women are at risk of 'alcohol and power related exploitation' and junior nurses were groped by senior union officials.

The inquiry also highlighted a misogynistic environment in higher levels of the RCN's leadership, with 'loud and abrasive' male voices dominating the environment 'to the detriment of female colleagues'.

It described the RCN Council, the 300,000-strong union's governing body, as 'not fit for purpose'. 

Members will be able to vote the council out later this month. Some of the board are already under investigation in the wake of the report, it is claimed.

Hundreds of roles are advertised on the website of the RCN's in-house publication called RCN Bulletin.

While the majority of these positions are in the UK some are for much further afield, like Australia.  

MailOnline found two job adverts for multiple roles in Australia, with one featuring incentives for staff to make the move Down Under. 

One ad, posted by the Government of South Australia, boasts of its beaches and wineries to tempt NHS nurses to make the switch. 

'Are you a Mental Health Nurse who likes a challenge, wants to be part of a dynamic and progressive service, want to live next to the beach, a vibrant city or a beautiful wine region? Come work for us!', it reads. 

It lists multiple roles available, including for nurses and senior nursing roles, with salaries ranging from the equivalent of £42,698 to £63,878, depending on experience. Roles in the NHS for similar position pay in the region of £35,000-£43,000.

There is also a post available for a Nursing Director, with the successful applicant in line to pocket £78,565 a year. 

A similar role in the NHS pays around £50,000 a year.

Another series of ads, posted by recruitment agency HealthStaff Recruitment, says multiple roles for nurses, midwives and mental health nurses are available in Sydney and Melbourne. Pay ranges from £40,000 to £50,000-plus.

The ads promise that nurses will only have to care for five patients at any one time, whereas in England eight in 10 nurses have reported not having enough staff to care for patients. 

The salary also includes an annual £1,400 meal and entertainment reimbursement package, and £5,080 in yearly assistance with rent or mortgage payments. 

They are also hosting face-to-face interviews this month and next in the UK cities of London, Manchester, and Edinburgh, where nurses will be able to meet Australian employers in person. 

An RCN spokesperson defended hosting the job ads, and instead attacked the UK Government for making NHS nursing unattractive.    

'Nobody should have to leave the country to get a fair salary as a nurse,' they said.

A NHS nurse walkout, which is expected to take place in December, would come after the first time the 106-year-old union balloted all of its members. Pictured: Staff nurse David Carr addresses NHS staff marching in July 2021

A NHS nurse walkout, which is expected to take place in December, would come after the first time the 106-year-old union balloted all of its members. Pictured: Staff nurse David Carr addresses NHS staff marching in July 2021

Nurses are just one of the public services profession demanding higher pay than the Government offer

Nurses are just one of the public services profession demanding higher pay than the Government offer.

NHS nurses strike action explained 

What is happening?

Britain's nursing union, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), asked 300,000 members to vote on strike action. Ballots closed on November 2.

What does the union want?

The union wants nurses to get a pay rise 5 per cent above inflation, which currently sits around 12 per cent. This is far above the Government's offer of about 4 per cent.

What happens now the ballot is closed? 

The RCN will tally the votes per UK  nation with the results expected to be announced in the coming days. 

What result is needed for nurses to go on strike? 

Trade union laws differ per UK nation.

In England and Scotland, 50 per cent of the eligible membership must vote for the ballot to be valid, and at least 40 per cent of votes must be in favour of the action for the result to count. 

For Wales, at least 50 per cent of the eligible membership must vote but only a simple majority is needed to determine the result.

Northern Ireland has the least restrictions on strike action ballots, only a simple majority of those who vote is required with no minimum turnout threshold. 

When could nurses go on strike?

Northern Ireland requires strike action to take place within one month of the ballot closing, so before December 3.

The law in England, Scotland and Wales states strike action has to be held within six months of the ballot closing, so by the start of May. 

Have any dates been announced?

No. It is also unclear if the strike will be held continuously, as in for multiple days in a row, or on certain days spaced throughout the month.

Won't a strike put patients in danger?

Unlike other staff groups who take strike action, nurses need to maintain a minimum staffing level to keep patients safe.

Therefore, some nurses will be exempt from the strike to provide this minimum level of service.

The exact numbers remaining on the job will be negotiated locally between the RCN and each NHS Trust/Board. 

If some nurses are still working what's the point of a strike?

While life-saving care will be provided, a nursing strike is likely to lead to cancellation of hundreds of routine operations. 

Similar large-scale strike action by junior doctors in 2016 led to the cancellation of 100,000 patient appointments.

Can nurses be sacked for striking?

No. NHS workers cannot legally be sacked if they participate in official and lawful industrial action. 

Will the Government cave to RCN demands?

Unknown. But if the No10 gives in to nurses it will face pressure to provide similar pay rises to other NHS staff groups, with junior doctors, midwives and other health service staff also arguing for inflation busting pay rises. 

At a time when state services are being asked to tighten their belts due to financial pressures the Government is likely to argue it can't afford to pay NHS staff more than it has offered.

Professor Len Shackleton, editorial and research fellow at the thinktank the Institute of Economic Affairs, said the union hosting the advertisements was ironic, given its concerns over staffing shortages. 

‘It seems ironic that, when a new RCN document has just documented a severe workforce shortage, the union is advertising nursing opportunities abroad,' he said.

He added that if the strike action goes ahead, and nurses suffer from hardship and even larger patient backlogs when they return to work, increasing numbers could turn to working aboard.  

‘If we have a long-drawn out industrial dispute with striking nurses losing pay and work piling up as worried patients experience delays, these opportunities may seem even more attractive,' he said.

The RCN declined to say how much it made from hosting such advertisements for overseas nursing jobs. 

However, information on its website says advertisers can pay £125 per week to have their job listed on the website. Promoting ads to visitors can cost an extra £300 per week. 

This is not the first time a UK health staff union has been criticised for running ads tempting British workers to head overseas during a staff crisis.

The Royal College of General Practitioners has previously been called 'hypocritical' for complaining about a lack of action on staffing by Government while hosting ads for roles in Canada that offer a whopping £316,000 salary.

Nursing strikes are expected to pile even more pressure on to the health service at its hardest time of year, as it battles winter pressures and expected waves of Covid and flu.

And it may worsen the backlog of care that has already piled up, with seven million people in England on the waiting list for elective hospital treatment by August. 

Nurses may also end up firing the starting gun of a winter of discontent in the health service, with junior doctors, midwives and paramedics also mulling industrial action.

In total close to 1million NHS workers could walk out over pay conditions this winter, prompting fears that blood tests will be delayed, chemotherapy cancelled and dialysis treatments postponed if strikes go ahead.

However, the RCN said nurses have been 'forced' into strike action due to a 'decade of real-terms pay cuts', warning 'enough is enough'. 

No10 has so far refused to budge on its pay offer for nurses, which amounts to around 4 per cent, or £1,400 in real terms. 

The RCN has also asked agency nurses, who may be drafted in to help shore up staffing numbers to stop the knock-on effects of walk outs, not to cover positions left vacant by striking staff.

The union's guidance reads: 'If you’re an agency worker allocated to work at an NHS organisation on a day of strike action, we expect you do not cover that shift.'

It conflicts with the Government's efforts to help stop union disruption of essential services.

In July this year, ministers brought in a law allowing for the hire of agency workers to cover industrial action to stop essential services being disrupted.

This was in response to the repeated strike action from transport unions bringing Britain's rail network to a standstill.   

Yesterday the RCN warned any attempts to bring in agency nurses to cover for industrial action would both unsafe and 'undemocratic'. 

'Using agency workers to cover strike action is undemocratic and unsafe.' a spokesperson said.

'The government is trying to curtail the right of health professionals to be heard.

'We are strongly encouraging our members who work as agency staff not to cover the shifts.'

The Royal College of Nursing, which balloted more than 300,000 members in the UK, is set to announce that a large majority voted in favour of industrial action. Pictured: NHS staff in London in July 2021 protest against the NHS Pay Review Body's recommendation of a 3 per cent pay rise for NHS staff in England

The Royal College of Nursing, which balloted more than 300,000 members in the UK, is set to announce that a large majority voted in favour of industrial action. Pictured: NHS staff in London in July 2021 protest against the NHS Pay Review Body's recommendation of a 3 per cent pay rise for NHS staff in England

The NHS waiting list for routine operations in August in England breached 7million for the first time ever. This includes almost 390,000 patients who've been forced to wait over a year for treatment

The NHS waiting list for routine operations in August in England breached 7million for the first time ever. This includes almost 390,000 patients who've been forced to wait over a year for treatment

AE waits have also breached a record, with the number of patients facing 12-hour waits exceeding 30,000

AE waits have also breached a record, with the number of patients facing 12-hour waits exceeding 30,000 

But the union itself is facing an internal crisis with members to hold a vote of no confidence in the RCN's leadership following a damming review into its toxic, male-dominated culture

The independent report, conducted by Bruce Carr KC, was set up following internal accusations of sexual harassment and bullying. 

It found that women are at risk of 'alcohol and power related exploitation' and junior nurses were groped by senior union officials.

The inquiry also highlighted a misogynistic environment in higher levels of the RCN's leadership, with 'loud and abrasive' male voices dominating the environment 'to the detriment of female colleagues'.

It described the RCN Council, the name of the union's governing body, as 'not fit for purpose'. 

Members will be able to vote the council out later this month. Some of the board are already under investigation in the wake of the report, it is claimed.