PDA Union National Executive Committee has
agreed on how to proceed towards strike action
Birmingham, UK. 23 January 2023. On 19 December 2022, the PDA invited members working in the NHS in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland to participate in a survey, the results of which would inform a decision on whether to move to any formal industrial action ballot(s). Separate communications were sent to members in Scotland, where there is a different NHS pay offer.
Members were informed that a formal ballot would require at least 50% of members balloted to participate and at least 40% of members balloted to vote yes for industrial action. Although the PDA Union believes these restrictions are unfair, bureaucratic, and designed to make exercising the right to take industrial action difficult, it is not an option for the PDA Union to ignore the legislation.
More than 2,000 pharmacists responded to the survey and the overwhelming view of those responding was clear.
In England, 79% voted for industrial action short of a strike and 84% for strike action. In Wales, it was 88% in favour of action short of a strike and 70% in favour of strike action.
However, the PDA Union has over 7,000 members in the NHS, and the turnout figure in England and in Wales was just 32% in each country.
In Northern Ireland, however, 97% supported action short of a strike and 94% wanted strike action on a turnout of 80%.
It can be seen from these figures that, although extremely high majorities of those voting were in favour of rejecting the pay award and for taking industrial action, neither the turnout nor voting yes criteria has been met in England or Wales. A ballot will therefore not be held among members employed in the NHS in England or among members employed in the NHS in Wales, at this time.
Politicians, senior NHS decision makers, and NHS employers in England and Wales should, however, have no doubt that it is a consequence solely of the restrictive legislation that governs industrial action in the UK, which the PDA Union feels is unfair but which it has no option but to comply with, that is preventing ballots in those countries. Those decision-makers should continue to recognise that they need to do all they can to satisfactorily resolve the dispute.
In Northern Ireland, both thresholds have been achieved and therefore the PDA Union National Executive Committee has authorised an Industrial Action ballot to be run among members in this country, in accordance with the requirements of the 2016 Trade Union Act.
This is a comparable situation to most NHS trade unions. Most NHS unions did not achieve the thresholds for action to take place in England and Wales. In fact, only nurses, ambulance workers, and physiotherapists are taking action there. More unions, however, including the Society of Radiographers and the Royal College of Midwives, did achieve the thresholds for strike action to be lawful in Northern Ireland. It is likely that more unions achieved yes votes in Northern Ireland largely because of no pay award being made in the absence of a functioning Assembly.
Members in Northern Ireland will therefore receive separate further communications that will set out the timetable for the ballot. The ballot will be postal and cannot be online or use electronic voting. Again, this is a requirement of the legislation governing industrial action ballots. Members in Northern Ireland will also receive a detailed Question and Answer document that will cover the questions that the PDA knows members will have regarding industrial action and will receive this prior to the ballot beginning.
In addition to this ballot in Northern Ireland, the PDA Union recognises many members, including those who do not want to take strike action, are unhappy with NHS pay across the UK.
The PDA also fully recognises that members in England and Wales who did participate in the survey and supported industrial action may feel disappointed at the current decision to not ballot them. If there are changes to the NHS pay award or if this dispute continues, further consultations with members will take place in due course, and this will again include questions on whether members would support industrial action in a ballot.