Health workers are in revolt over the Tory refusal to give a pay rise to hundreds of thousands of people who work in the NHS.
Activists were set to march from St Thomas’ Hospital in south London to Downing Street on Wednesday this week.
And pay protests are planned in 20 towns and cities across Britain on Saturday 8 August. They will target the Tories but also the devolved governments in Edinburgh and Cardiff that determine NHS pay.
Jordan, an occupational therapist, said she “just can’t believe it after what we’ve been through” in the coronavirus crisis. “It’s been a really bad time,” she told Socialist Worker. “We’re very tired and burned out and now there is a sense of dread that there’s going to be another wave of patients coming through.”
She added, “Everyone is absolutely fuming about it—there’s a real mood to stand up for ourselves.”
The Tories claim that health workers are still in a three-year pay deal, signed in 2018, amounting to a 6.5 percent increase.
But the deal was mis‑sold by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Unison union leaderships, with many workers receiving less that they were led to believe.
Mark, a nurse in Greater Manchester, explained that it also “came off the back of ten years of austerity”.
Workers’ anger has been fuelled by the Tory hypocrisy of taking part in the claps for the NHS during the lockdown.
Now workers are demanding a 12.5 percent pay rise this year, not at some indefinite point in the future.
Jerry, a frontline ambulance worker, says Boris Johnson has “no respect for the hard work of NHS workers” and that it’s an “insult beyond belief.” “The public do not understand what we in the NHS experienced,” he told Socialist Worker.
“Boris Johnson did not provide us with PPE protective equipment, we were down to a few minutes supply of PPE.
“I was going from one mask to the next, literally travelling six miles to get another mask to see another patient.
“Boris has killed thousands of citizens through his utter incompetence.”
He added, “I’ve had three colleagues that I know die, I’ve had colleagues get so ill they will never come back to work.
“I’ve had to leave people at home that I know that would die—I feel like I have killed people.”
Jerry says that workers are furious at Tory attempts to deflect blame with Johnson saying “he didn’t know how bad it would be”.
“What a load of bullshit,” he said. “I was sitting there in January and February watching doctors in Spain and Italy.
“They were saying, ‘Track, trace, mask up, it’s coming your way.”
Jerry feels workers’ and patients’ health was sacrificed because Tory cuts had hammered the NHS. “So we have a system to classify how unwell someone is to take them into hospital,” he explained.
“Normally if someone has a score of 1, I would have to take people in. We were going up to 7—which is high risk—before taking someone into hospital for about a month during the height of coronavirus.
"These people were staying at home and dying. A colleague would turn up to the homes of people we had seen and who had now died.”
Jerry said that “virtually all of us are feeling numb” and some needed PTSD treatment.
Trade union leaders need to mobilise the anger and organise strikes in a fight against Tory government. As Jerry said, “If we had a bit of leadership from our unions, we would mutiny overnight.”
A fight over the NHS can win mass support and force the governments to cough up.
The health pay revolt can be a launchpad for the wider revolt against the Tories.
On Saturday 8 August there are demonstrations in towns and cities including London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Oxford, Chesterfield, Sheffield, Hull, Liverpool, Birmingham, Swansea, Glasgow, Basildon, Leeds, Nottingham, Merthyr Tydfil, Inverness, Newcastle, Bournemouth, Plymouth, and Cardiff. For details go to NHS Workers Say NO! to Public Sector pay inequality For a map of the demonstrations with details go here