Health workers were set to take to the streets in towns and cities across Britain on Saturday in their latest day of action to demand a pay rise.
Supporters of the grassroots group, NHS Workers Say No to Public Sector Pay Inequality, have organised protests in more than 20 places. They include London, Bristol, Manchester, Wigan, Liverpool, Sheffield, Chesterfield and Newcastle.
In London health workers plan to march from BBC Broadcasting House on Portland Place to Trafalgar Square.
Kim, a community nurse who has organised a march in Plymouth, said, “The only way to save the NHS and to retain staff is to have a decent pay rise.”
“Otherwise no one will want to come into this profession with pay being so low.” She told Socialist Worker, “our wages just don’t cover our outlays. It’s very hard if you’re wanting to rent or buy a place.
“I don’t know what the government is thinking by not giving us a pay rise, if they want 40,000 more nurses.”
Workers’ anger over pay has been stoked by the hypocrisy of ministers joining the Claps for the NHS and praising them as key workers during the lockdown. But Tory chancellor Rishi Sunak left out NHS workers from public sector pay increases awarded for workers’ “vital contribution” in the pandemic.
Kim said the pandemic “hasn’t gone away” with workers “still trying to battle through it”. Staff are starting to feel sick and exhausted and people are going off ill,” she explained. “We find it difficult to fill posts down here.
“We’re still really busy in the community. Doctors are seeing more patients—and if they’re not going out to see patients, they’re asking us to go and see patients.
“It’s still really stressful.”
Ministers have argued that the NHS is in the middle of a three‑year pay deal, amounting to 6.5 percent across those years.
But the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Unison union leaderships mis-sold the pay deal, with their publicity leading many workers to believe they would receive more money than they did.
And that deal came after a ten-year pay freeze which saw workers lose up to 20 percent in real terms.
While the unions remain split and failing to act over pay, the grassroots campaign is demanding a 15 percent pay rise.
The Tory government is weak and has been forced into U-turns during the coronavirus outbreak.
Mobilising thousands of people onto the streets over NHS pay could win a pay rise.
And it could inflict a serious blow to the Tories and bosses’ attempts to make working class people pay for the coronavirus crisis.