Health workers across Britain planned a series of workplace rallies and demonstrations for pay justice this week.
The protests on Wednesday are part of a grassroots revolt after the Tories excluded NHS staff from public sector pay increases for workers who had made a “vital contribution” during the pandemic.
An angry mood has already seen around 40 protests in towns and cities at the beginning of the month, including a 2,000-strong march in central London.
Workers organising at St Thomas’ Hospital, near Downing Street, had invited other hospitals to join their rally.
One worker at an east London NHS trust said she “couldn’t have anticipated the mood” among colleagues to join the fight.
The worker described how their pay protest WhatsApp group went from “three people to around 87” in the space of a week.
They had an urgent message for health and care workers everywhere.
“Even if there is just one of you, or you and one other person who wants to give it a go, you can get going pretty quickly,” she said.
Health workers plan a further national day of action for Saturday 12 September.
This deal was accepted by the majority of health unions, apart from the GMB. The leaderships of the two largest unions, Unison and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), helped the government sell the pay deal in 2018. Many health workers were led to believe they would receive more money in their pay packets than they did.
The RCN leadership was forced to apologise and step down.
The 2018 deal came on the back of a ten-year pay freeze under Labour and Tory governments, which led to up to a 20 percent pay cut in real terms.
Holly, a nurse in Sheffield, says she felt “anger and frustration” after the Tory decision not to give health workers a pay rise. “Many colleagues are shocked, lots of us aren’t,” she told Socialist Worker.
“The public support, the ‘thank yous’, the clapping was all well received and boosted morale especially in the first few weeks.
“However it should not be in place of a pay rise.
“We need a rise not only in recognition for our roles during Covid-19 but to make up for the pay freeze since 2010 and years of austerity in between.
“The pay deal doesn’t even cover the rate of inflation.”
A victory for the health workers would be a win for all workers, giving them confidence to take on the Tories and bosses.
Every trade unionist, socialist and campaigner should throw themselves behind the NHS pay revolt.