Socialist Worker

'Scrap the cap!' - Royal College of Nursing begins protests over public sector pay cap

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2565

Outside Downing Street (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Chants of "Scrap the cap" rang out in front of Downing Street as over 200 nurses protested against the Tories' 1 percent public sector pay cap in central London today, Thursday.

It was one of more than 40 protests organised by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) across England as part of its "summer of protest".

Marc, a RCN member and nurse from London, told Socialist Worker, "Since 2010 we've had a real terms pay cut of 14 percent because of the pay cap, but the cost of living keeps going up."

The Tories' public sector pay cap isn't just forcing nurses and other health workers to live on the breadline, but is fuelling the deep crisis in the NHS.

The protests came as the RCN released new research showing that twice as many senior nurses are leaving the NHS compared to three years ago.

The figures, based on a survey of RCN members, also showed that some 600 nurses who have been in the job for longer than ten years are leaving every year. As Marc said, "We have got so many people leaving the profession—and the pay cap plays a big part.

"I used to work full time but went to work for a nursing agency—it's not what I wanted to do but had to because of the low pay.

"Many nurses on the protest in London were angry about how the pay cap is forcing people to leave the capital. Jude, another RCN member, told Socialist Worker, "Some people are travelling up to two hours just to get into work.

"If you look at nurses in London, between 60 and 70 percent of pay goes towards housing and travel costs."

Patients

This has a knock on effect on patients' care. Marc said, "Almost all the shifts that I've worked on have been short-staffed.

"I was working in an accident and emergency unit this week and we had two patients with dementia trying to wander around.

"Because I had to run around after them I couldn't spend as much time with the other patients—if we weren't short-staffed that wouldn't be so much of a problem."

But pay cap is fuelling anger—and determination among nurses to resist the Tories' attacks.

In a pay consultation in May some 74 percent of RCN members said they would be willing to take some form of industrial action.

Marc said, "We don't want to strike, but it's something we need to do because we've been ignored for so long.

"If we voted for it, then I would definitely be up for it."

He added, "I'm a pay champion for the RCN so every day that I'm in work I go out and talk to colleagues to get support for the campaign."

At the rally RCN president Cecelia said we needed to "build a powerful coalition of support so the government can't ignore us."

That means other health unions, including Unison, should join the fight against the pay cap and ballot their members for industrial action.


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