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Health workers join ‘slow clap’ to protest over Tory pay insult

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Issue 2746
Health workers protest outside Homerton hospital in east London
Health workers protest outside Homerton hospital in east London

Health workers and their supporters showed their anger at the Tories 1 percent pay offer on Thursday by slow clapping in disgust.

NHS workers made videos of themselves and their colleagues ironically clapping Boris Johnson to mock the way he urged people join the Claps for the NHS last year.

Johnson insists that no extra money is available to health workers—despite handing £37 billion to the failing test and trace programme.

Workers at Homerton hospital in east London made lots of separate videos in different departments and took their protest out into the hospital grounds too. Protesters carried placards that read, “1 percent won’t pay the rent,” and, “Nurses are for life, not just for Covid”.

Their videos were followed by others from workers at St Thomas’ and UCH hospitals in central London and community health workers in east London.

Many proved a big hit on social media, being shared and re-shared continually.

All featured health workers exhausted by a year of fighting the pandemic—but also furious that the government had decided to insult them.

Nurses, porters, campaigners and local trade unionists, including Central Manchester Health Unison, stood outside Manchester Royal Infirmary too in an impromptu protest. There were similar actions in Harlow, Barnsley, Sheffield and Birmingham.

In Bristol, campaigners from the People before Profit group on Wednesday made a car cavalcade around the Bristol Royal Infirmary. “We were joined by activists from Unite union health branch, Protect Our NHS, and other trade unionists as we drove around the hospital,” one Unison union member said.

“To see numbers of hospital workers waving and giving the thumbs up from the windows of the hospital made it clear that it was a good thing to do,” one Unison union member said.

Campaigning at UCH in central London
Campaigning at UCH in central London (Pic: Guy Smallman)

It’s good that physical protests happened—especially after nurse Karen Reissmann was fined £10,000 earlier this week for organising a small demonstration in Manchester.

Police said she had broken Covid-19 laws that outlaw gatherings.

Nurse Karen Reissmann fined £10,000 under Tory laws for protesting over pay insult
Nurse Karen Reissmann fined £10,000 under Tory laws for protesting over pay insult
  Read More

Unison, the biggest of health service unions, initiated the slow clap protest—and it now plans further action on 1 April. That’s the day NHS workers were supposed to receive a new pay award, but which has now been put back by months.

The national union’s backing for Thursday’s action gave confidence to activists to go further than officials had intended.

Many used making the videos as an excuse to get round their hospitals and talk to people about the possibility of striking against the 1 percent offer.

Most health workers know that their pay will remain low, and that thousands of vital posts will therefore remain unfilled, unless they fight back at the government.

Already the nurses’ RCN union has announced it has created a £35 million industrial action fund.

Every union needs to start seriously building momentum for strikes—even if ballots are still some way off.

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