Around 200 health workers and their supporters joined a march to Downing Street on Friday to protest against the Tory pay insult.
It came as health unions made moves towards industrial action against the Tories’ 3 percent pay offer.
Patricia, a staff nurse, told Socialist Worker she feels “under appreciated” and “at breaking point”. “The government offered us 1 percent and then they offered three,” said. “Both offers are insulting when health workers are suffering so much already.”
Workers gathered at St Thomas hospital, near parliament, to bring their anger to the Tories. Protesters chanted, “1,2,3,4,5…keep our NHS alive,” and, “Boris Johnson, hear us shout, pay us properly or get out,” as they marched to Downing Street.
Malcolm, another nurse, said that the crisis is having a devastating impact on workers’ morale. “We are tens of thousands of nurses short,” he told Socialist Worker. "I’m seeing people I know leaving.
“Some can’t even pay for childcare or rent.”
He added, “To be honest I really don’t blame them for leaving.
“Things are just getting worse and worse and it is also important to say a lot of us were already angry even before the pandemic hit.”
Malcolm, a member of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), says industrial action is on the cards. “You can see going on strike has actually worked for nurses in other countries,” he explained. “When nurses flex their muscles, it can pay off.”
“It's so important we take more action, ultimately to protect the whole sector.”
Anna said that for her the protest wasn’t just about pay—it was about conditions too. “At the moment resources are so stretched,” she told Socialist Worker. “There is literally a shortage of stationery in my hospital—that’s how bad it is.”
Bella, another nurse, added, “We are playing catch-up all with the very real prospect of there being another wave of the virus.”
Unions are pushing for different pay increases, but grassroots health worker activists are demanding a 15 percent pay rise.
Many workers stressed the need for unions to take united action to force a substantial pay rise from the Tory government.
Janet, a nurse, and Unison union rep, told the crowd just how important it was to vote for strikes. “Today is the first day we in Unison have received our consultative papers about whether to strike,” she said.
“I implore everyone, who hasn’t joined a union to join and to vote yes to strikes.”
Health workers need to keep up momentum in workplaces, with protests and campaigning, to build for a big strike vote.
As Patricia said, “We can’t sit and talk, we need to keep protesting and piling on the pressure.”