Nurses in North Wales could be balloted on strike action amid growing anger over controversial changes to their rotas.
It comes as a union boss has warned the move to make staff take an extra half-hour break per shift without pay could push them into financial hardship.
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) announced it would move ahead with the plans last week, which it claimed would standardise rotas and protect the health and safety of its workforce.
However, it was met with an outcry from nurses and health care supporter workers, who could be forced to take on additional shifts to meet their contracted hours from January.
Tony Brady, Unite the Union’s regional co-ordinating officer, said some staff were left in tears amid worries it will impact their work-life balance and childcare arrangements.
He said the union was prepared to ballot members on strike action unless senior figures reconsider their decision.
The Wrexham-based union official said: “Staff are angry and are willing to take industrial action and I’ve never heard nurses say that before.
“We’ve had the full spectrum of nurses in tears saying they can’t afford to do the extra shifts, which has now turned into anger.
“It’s the extra journeys into work, it’s the childcare costs, it’s even down to laundry.
“In this day and age our nurses shouldn’t be in a situation like that. It’s a profession we should all be proud of.”
He added “A lot of nurses are saying they’re going to leave the profession which is appalling.
“We don’t believe the consultation has been meaningful and we want to sit round the table again for them to talk to us and listen to our concerns.”
The union is now planning to hold a protest outside a meeting of board members in Colwyn Bay later this week.
It comes after two separate petitions against the proposals were signed by more than 7,000 people.
An assessment was also carried which highlighted nurses’ fears over how it would impact their finances.
Despite this, BCUHB said it would go ahead with the changes in a bid to save more than £500,000 and reduce its reliance on agency staff.
The Royal College of Nursing, which has 25,000 members across Wales, has also expressed concerns over the decision, which it said would have a “devastating” impact on morale.
Director Helen Whyley said: “We are extremely disappointed with the health board’s decision; they have ignored nurses’ concerns regarding this proposal and are displaying a complete lack of consideration for our members in BCUHB.
“Nurses are already working extra, unpaid hours in an attempt to give the highest possible care to their patients, they should be respected and valued, not ignored and penalised
“We will be talking to our members further on how they wish to progress with their concerns about these changes.”
In response to the issues raised, a senior health board figure said it had a duty to ensure staff rotas are consistent and meet national terms and conditions.
Sue Green, executive director of workforce and organisational development, added 53 separate meetings had been held with workers and trade unions during the consultation on the plans.
She said: “We have been through, in detail, the feedback received, and have carefully considered it.
“As a result, we have made a number of changes to our plans to reflect the different needs of our services and of staff, including extending the period for working their contracted hours and making sure that people who need to can work flexibly.
“Following a discussion with the chair of our trade union partners, we are holding an extraordinary local partnership forum meeting this week to discuss the concerns raised and how best to address these during the implementation of the proposed changes.
“We have delayed the implementation until after Christmas to allow adequate time for changes made as a result of feedback from staff and trade unions to be incorporated, and for teams to prepare.”
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).