Socialist Worker

Health workers protest for protective equipment

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2701

Protesting in Wigan

Protesting in Wigan


Health workers and their supporters took part in a day of symbolic action to demand “health before profit” on Thursday.

Supporters of the People Before Profit: Health Worker Covid Activists group raised slogans for personal protective equipment (PPE) and mass testing. They carried out small workplace actions and public stunts to show their anger at Tory health secretary Matt Hancock.

It came as the number of health workers who have died of coronavirus climbed to 62.

The day began with a banner drop in Mile End, east London, by local GP and health campaign Jackie Applebee. She said, “From health and social care, we are all absolutely grateful for the generosity of the public coming out and clapping.

“But we say to you a clap is not enough, we are woefully and disgracefully short of personal protective equipment.

“Please join us in demanding that the government repurpose industry right now to produce what we need.

“And if they can’t do that, then Matt Hancock must resign.”

At the Whittington Hospital in Islington, north London, workers took part in a series of photographs across the site. They held up signs demanding, “PPE Now”, “Test, test test”, and “Hancock must go”.

Health workers held a lunchtime cavalcade outside the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. They tooted their horns and drove on to the Churchill Hospital draped in a banner reading, “Save our carers.”

Nurse Janet unfurled a home-made banner outside Whipps Cross Hospital in Waltham Forest in north London.

A message from Whittington hospital workers and supporters

A message from Whittington hospital workers and supporters


At the Royal London in east London health workers and campaigners gathered outside to demand proper PPE.

Health campaigners unfurled a banner demanding “full PPE for all” outside King’s College Hospital in south London. Workers came outside the Accident and Emergency unit for the weekly clap.

Meanwhile, health and social care workers protested inside and outside Wigan council offices. Dave, a Unison union rep, told Socialist Worker, “I turned up this morning at work said to everybody, ‘Are you up for it?’

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“And the vast majority agreed with the sentiment.

“We then went down to where the nursing staff are and we asked if they were up for it. We stood up in the middle of the floor the nurses are on, made a speech and got a few people out to protest.”

Paul, another Unison rep, said that people were “extremely angry” with Hancock. “They know what he’s been up to and what he’s not been up to,” he told Socialist Worker. “We know about delays in bringing in equipment and the fatalities.”

“A lot of our staff are working alongside NHS workers—that’s why today it’s NHS and social care together.”

The action in Wigan shows that it is still possible to organise workplace action and protest while maintaining social distancing measures.

The People Before Profit: Health Worker Covid Activists group plans a further day of action on Workers Memorial Day on Tuesday 28 April.

It’s right for workers to protest inside and outside their workplaces to protect their health and lives.

 


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