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Health workers stage day of action for pay

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Issue 2749
Health workers protest outside UCH hospital in central London
Health workers protest outside UCH hospital in central London (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Health workers across Britain labelled Boris Johnson an “April Fool” on Thursday 1 April.

They held a series of lunchtime protests and social media events as part of their campaign for a substantial pay rise.

The Unison union called for activity on Thursday 1 April because it was the date that hundreds of thousands of NHS workers were due to get their pay rise.

But not only has Johnson’s Tory government offered a paltry 1 percent increase, it has also delayed any pay increase until the summer.

Diana, a community health worker in east London, organised a small protest at Mile End hospital. “It was very lively and very angry,” she told Socialist Worker. “There were about 25 or 30 people, mostly community district nurses and therapists out with us.

“People were making connections between our rubbish pay, the failure to get us decent PPE protective gear, and racism.

“I think everyone was pleased to have done something.”

Action outside St Thomas Hospital in south London
Action outside St Thomas’ Hospital in south London (Pic: Guy Smallman)

There were also protests at the giant UCH hospital in central London. Nurse Janet told Socialist Worker that up to 20 people joined the action there. “Because it is very hard for nurses and others to come off the ward to a protest, we’ve had people here on their day off,” he said.

“That’s how much this matters to them. There is a feeling that things are moving in the unions and that we’re getting serious about the fight for better pay.

“One way I know that is two intensive care nurses came today. Both have recently joined the union, one has just become a union rep and the other is planning to do the same.

“We also had support from local trade unionists, including from the RMT union at Oxford Circus tube station, and Camden’s local government Unison too.”

Protesters took to the streets in Barnsley
Protesters took to the streets in Barnsley

Protests took place at North Middlesex Hospital, Royal Glamorgan Hospital, Royal Lancaster Infirmary and in other towns and cities, including Barnsley and Chesterfield, and in Glasgow on Wednesday. 

Campaigners need to use every opportunity to get workers involved in activity. That’s the best way to build the mood for strikes—and push the union leaders to give more of a lead.

They need to ensure that hospital corridors and wards are plastered with posters and that there are many more stunts and meetings.

When health workers get the feeling that striking over pay is a real option, the level of enthusiasm for the union jumps.

Every health worker needs to think what they could do at their workplace to tap into the mood.

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