A Welsh nursing union today begins balloting members on industrial action, weeks after pay talks with the Welsh Government fell down.

The indicative ballot by the Royal College of Nursing Wales will ask members whether they're willing to strike in pursuit of a better pay deal.

READ MORE: Burnout: Why work in Wales doesn't pay

Nurses will be asked whether they support striking, or action short of a strike, such as "working to rule" - in which staff carry out the minimum work required by their job contract and no more. As many industries rely on workers carrying out unpaid overtime, or duties not included in their job description, this tactic can slow down work and cause disruption without a strike taking place.

Earlier this year the Welsh Government awarded NHS staff a 3% pay rise. 

Because this award sits below the rate of inflation (used to measure living cost increases), unions say it represents a real-terms pay cut. 

READ MORE: NHS pay rise: Welsh Government 'hiding behind Westminster'

Helen Whyley, RCN Wales Director, said: “Let’s be clear: We never wanted to take this step, but the Welsh Government has left us no other choice.

"This is about safe and effective patient care when there are over 1,700 nursing vacancies in the NHS.

"Our members have told us they cannot stay in the NHS because they are under-resourced to deliver the high standard of care required by their patients, and are not being rewarded with fair wages for the complex and safety critical role they do.

"The cost of living, inflation and tax has risen steeply which renderers this so called 3% pay rise into a pay cut."

RCN represents more than 26,000 nurses working in Wales.

The National Wales: RCN's Helen Whyley has called the government's refusal to raise the 3% pay award "a political choice". RCN's Helen Whyley has called the government's refusal to raise the 3% pay award "a political choice".

In pay talks last month the Welsh Government had offered a one-off additional boost of one per cent and an extra day's annual leave.

The government has maintained that it cannot afford any further boost to NHS pay.

“We have followed the recommendations from the independent NHS Pay Review Body and the Doctors and Dentist Review Body to award all NHS staff a 3 per cent pay rise," it said last month.

“We hope NHS workers understand how much we value their work and appreciate everything they have done.

"“As well as the pay rise, earlier this year we also awarded NHS staff with a one-off payment of £735 per person.

"After deductions most people will have received £500.

"While we want to invest in our workforce we also need to invest in delivering vital NHS services.”

Members of all major NHS unions have rejected the 3% pay offer. GMB Union is also balloting members on industrial action, and says if members vote in favour of striking, it will likely take place after Christmas.

RCN's indicative ballot will close on 30th November.

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