Health workers’ fury burst onto the streets of London on Wednesday as over 1,500 marched on Downing Street.
The march was the first of several protests in towns and cities across Britain to demand a pay rise for health workers.
Around 25 are planned for Saturday of next week, 8 August, including in London, Glasgow, Manchester, Sheffield, Doncaster, Chesterfield and Newcastle.
Health workers from hospitals across London assembled at St Thomas’ Hospital, then marched down the road chanting, "Boris we don't want your clap."
Lisa, a nurse from Sussex, explained that “enough was enough” after a decade of stagnating pay and of working through coronavirus. “We’ve got to take a stand now,” she told Socialist Worker, “it’s a stab in the back at the end of the day.
“Basically, nurses have no respect from the government.”
Workers’ anger is fuelled by the fact that ministers clapped for the NHS during coronavirus, but have now “slapped workers in the face”.
The pay revolt is pulling in health workers who have never been on a protest or picket line before and some aren’t in a union.
Emily, a nurse from London, says that “after the long years in the NHS I’ve never felt so angry”.
“This is my first protest ever,” she told Socialist Worker.
“After what’s happened with Covid-19, the decision is disgusting and shameful.
“This has been mentally and physically challenging.
“I wasn’t asking for anything, but after they said the rest of the people were getting something, why aren’t we?”
Janet, a nurse, came as part of a delegation from UCH hospital in central London. She told Socialist Worker that it was “one of the biggest responses” by UCH workers in recent years.
“About 30 people have come down on the Tube together and I’ve just bumped into another ward on the protest.”
Protesters took the knee for Black Lives Matter on Whitehall.
“This has been mentally and physically challenging. I wasn’t asking for anything, but after they said the rest of the people were getting something, why aren’t we?”
Workers are demanding a 12.5 percent pay increase from the Tory government in England and the Welsh Labour and Scottish National Party governments.
The Tory government gave other groups public sector workers paltry pay increases earlier this month.
Ministers argue that the NHS is in the middle of a three year pay deal, amounting to 6.5 percent.
But the pay deal was missold by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Unison union leaderships in 2018.
Workers were led to believe that they would receive more money in their pay packets than they did.
And the deal came on the back of a ten year pay freeze under Labour and Tory governments, which saw nurses take a 14 percent pay cut in real terms.
On Whitehall, St Thomas’ nurse Dave Carr said it’s time to “build the biggest strike in the NHS" to huge cheers.
The crowd broke into chants of, “The workers united will never be defeated.”
Carr addressed the Unison, GMB and Unite union leaderships, saying, “We pay your wages, now fight for ours.”
Trade unionists, health campaigners and socialists should throw themselves into supporting the protests on 8 August across Britain.
A win for the health workers would be a win for all workers, giving other groups confidence to take the fight against low pay and the effects of coronavirus to the Tories and bosses.