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Letters—Let’s not miss the chance for strikes in the NHS

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Issue 2818
Nurses and other NHS strikes on the march in 2021 with placards such as "Migrants make our NHS"

Nurses and NHS workers fought for pay in 2021 but did not carry out strikes (Pic: Guy Smallman)

It’s exciting to see so many workers on strike, and that health workers are getting ready to fight for better pay. It would be even better to see my union, Unison, collaborating and getting itself in gear sooner. The issues we face—rising bills, poverty and being unable to afford food—aren’t going anywhere. And it’s only going to get harder if we don’t strike now.

Bills are going up again in the winter and already nurses around me are in distress about how they’ll make ends meet. But last week younger nurses—part of the RCN union—were discussing going on strike. They were talking about not giving notice and being ready to just walk out.

Despite the RCN balloting from 15 September, Unison won’t be balloting until 27 October. If we all came out on the same day that would be a real show of strength. Instead union bureaucrats prove they know how to pop the bubble of anger and enthusiasm.

The reality is members are being stirred up now. The £1,400 pay “rise” we’ve been offered will start going into people’s accounts while balloting is going on. There is a need for urgency to get on with it quicker. Otherwise, we could be having arguments about fighting for the difference between what we want and what we’ve been given.

Unison is wondering how it can get higher than the 24 percent turnout we had last year. But it needs to be reactive to things in the real world. There is a really strong mood and a momentum that has to be built on now.

It was brilliant that Unison called a meeting of the health executive team as soon as the government announced the plans. But now we need to re-examine the timetable for the ballot. Let’s strike while the mood is hot.

Janet Maiden

Nurse and Unison union activist, London

Stop this deportation

Our friend Richard Nomba was taken into detention from his home in Swansea for the second time last Monday. He is now in the Immigration Removal Centre at Heathrow and at risk of imminent deportation. Richard was first detained in June and released after three days, but the government has come after him again.

Richard comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo—a country where opponents and critics of the existing regime are not welcome. He came to Swansea as an asylum seeker in June 2018. He began volunteering straight away, and became involved in an organisation to help other Congolese immigrants in Swansea.

When the lockdown began Richard packaged and delivered food and toiletries to people who were isolated and in need. His voluntary work was recognised by the National Lottery Community Fund. After he was detained and released in June, Richard came back to his home in Swansea and re-started volunteering.

Now his life has been turned upside down again by the cruel asylum policies of a vicious Tory government. Richard is a staunch supporter of Stand Up To Racism and understands the importance of fighting against racism. He is our friend, and should be allowed to come back to Swansea.

Alice Greenlees


IMF admits horror but takes no effective action

The International Monetary Fund’s June report states extreme weather “has inflicted crippling losses across the Middle East”. But it was clear from Cop26 that new money will not go to poor nations. The decision in Glasgow was to only “initiate dialogue” about funding to “avert, minimise and address loss and damage”. The central banks and insurance companies need the science to know where their assets are likely to be hit.

But according to Professor Andy Pitman the modelling used is limited. It is geared only towards average climate change, not on extreme weather events. The Network for Greening the Financial System uses this limited modelling to advise around 100 central banks. Trillions of dollars are being invested without understanding the risks.

Miriam Scharf

East London

Strikers’ self-activity is crucial to win

The recent wave of strikes and ballots should give hope to socialists in every workplace. It is a welcome return to a level of militancy, which can break with a pessimistic attitude that workers cannot win. There should also be a return to large workplace pickets, meetings and all sorts of initiatives that go beyond not attending work. And these should be decided by workers themselves.

This year a strike wave took place with NEU union members in schools in Waltham Forest, east London. Fifteen ballots took place over the course of a year. Members were angry over a range of issues, including attacks on pensions, workload and redundancies.

The schools where strikes took place saw lively, well attended pickets and opportunities to discuss strategy and tactics. Crucial to this was the self-activity of the members themselves. This was the driving force. It was the union members, not the local officials, that became creative. Unsurprisingly, it helped create a new layer of reps in schools who feel they can build power in the workplace.

Paul Phillips

East London

Covid shows the Tories will let us die

If Boris Johnson was okay about elderly and disabled people dying during the pandemic, his successor will be okay with a few thousand more people dying this winter. It shows what this government thinks of people—letting us die and taking away our rights more and more. They all need to go now.


On Twitter

Stop paying the fuel bills

The whole country—everyone—needs to stop paying their gas and electricity bills to these greedy power hunger companies. If everyone sticks together, they will have to take notice. Hit them in their pockets where it hurts, just like they are doing to all of us.

Shaun Boland

On Facebook

Food banks aren’t normal

It’s better for workers to strike now, especially NHS staff. Otherwise nurses will all turn and leave. This world is centred on profit. If anyone in work has to use benefits or food banks as a normal way of living then something is wrong.

Jonathan Broadhurst

On Twitter

Cops rotten to the core

The extent of Met police strip-searches of children is a disgrace (Socialist Worker, 6 August). It’s absolutely sickening that they get away with these violations. Socialist Worker linked this to another case of a man almost being killed after being put in a chokehold.

It’s story after story of the same horrors from the police. These aren’t evidence of accidents or anomalies. This is what the police do, and the sooner they’re off the streets the better.

Sharon Casey


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