Socialist Worker

NHS strikers take on the Tories

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2430

Hundreds of workers marched around University College Hospital in central London

Hundreds of workers marched around University College Hospital in central London (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Up to 500,000 health workers struck for four hours across England today, Monday.

Unison, Unite, GMB and Royal College of Midwives (RCM) union members all walked out in their second walkout against the Tories’ attack on pay. But this time the Society of Radiographers and other health unions struck at the same time.

East London radiographer Abbas told Socialist Worker, “This strike is even better supported than the last one.

“I think people are waking up to the fact that staff and resource cuts are having a bad impact on the NHS”.

Health workers are furious with Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt for refusing to give most NHS workers even a 1 percent pay rise.

“It’s outrageous,” said Elaine Baptiste, a health visitor and Unite member on the picket line at Whipps Cross hospital in east London. “I work many long hours and managers have no respect for staff.  

“Many health workers have second jobs and they’re also forced to go to food banks to feed their kids”.

Workers from the different unions held lively and well supported picket lines. Up to 200 joined the University College Hospital picket lines in central London and marched around the hospital.

Around 40 angry pickets rallied outside Portsmouth hospital and 70 joined a buoyant picket line in Harlow, Essex.

Trade unionists and campaigners also brought solidarity to the picket lines.

There were around 50 pickets on the Queen’s Medical Centre picket lines in Nottingham, with a big contingent of midwives. The Nottingham Keep Our NHS Public campaign set up a stall and attracted a lot of support from the public.

The local branch of the Royal College of Nurses (RCN), who aren’t taking action, came down to show solidarity.

In Lancaster, NUT teachers’ union members and the local pensioners’ group joined the picket line.

Ambulance drivers at Homerton in Hackney, East London told Socialist Worker that firefighters were refusing to scab on them.

Conditions

The strike is officially about pay, but it’s also about stopping the Tory attacks on the NHS. Homerton Unison member Irene said, “We need more pay, but we also want better working conditions.

“How are we supposed to care for patients if we can’t care for ourselves?”

One ambulance worker added, “In reality, it’s not just about the 1 percent. The fact is if there’s no change, we’ll have no health service left.

 “Many staff are so disillusioned that now they’ve started speaking with their feet, including many experienced people. “

Unison rep Chris said, “The main reason wages are being kept down is to make way for privatisation – here they’re already targeting portering servives. 

Whipps Cross Midwife Christine agreed, “We are short staffed – it’s common for us not take our breaks. If there’s sickness absence or annual leave, it’s just not covered.”

Attacks like these have hit morale hard. But now workers are buoyed by the strikes and determined to fight on.

Unison is already considering calling more strikes for the New Year.  

However, Unison called off a planned health strike in Wales and has accepted a shoddy deal following a branch consultation.

Many workers want to go out again—for longer.

Nurse and Unison health service executive member Janet Maiden told Socialist Worker in a personal capacity, “It’s important that we carry on taking action.

“But people feel strongly that we need to escalate.

“The Unison head of health visited our picket line this morning—which was great—and many workers were asking for a full day.”

The strike has shown that health workers are determined to fight for better pay and to defend the NHS. Now the union leaders need to escalate the action.

Thanks to Penny Foskett, Audrey Glover, Julie Bremner, James Eaden, Geoff Brown, Steve Johnston, Dick and Jan Brown, Maureen Topley 


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