By Yuri Prasad
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2789

Mandatory vaccination will sack thousands of NHS staff

The mandatory jab move is a Tory attempt to deflect the blame for the pandemic away from themselves
Issue 2789
Sticker reads, "I've had my Covid Vaccination"

Vaccination levels are rising and many people show their vaccination status by wearing a sticker. (Picture: mia!)

A staggering 73,000 health workers could lose their jobs within weeks, plunging the NHS into its biggest crisis yet.
 
New government rules ­demanding all health workers in England that have “direct contact with patients” are double jabbed come into effect in April.
 
That means the staff that have not had their first jab by 3 February will be unable to meet the deadline. NHS trusts have been instructed to then start the process of ending their employment. Only a few ­workers can expect to be transferred to non-patient facing roles.
 
Those job losses will come at a time when record numbers of health workers are off sick or self-isolating, and on top of the already 100,000 job vacancies that existed even before the pandemic.
 
The mandatory jab move is a Tory attempt to deflect the blame for the pandemic away from themselves by scapegoating unvaccinated people. This strategy will have devastating consequences.
 
“Throughout the pandemic it’s the government that have put health workers and our patients at risk,” a paramedic that did not wish to be named told Socialist Worker.
 
“They are the ones who’ve got rid of all the public safety measures and cut Covid self-isolation time, and they are the people that are still failing to ensure we have the right protective PPE.
 
“Those failings are the biggest threat to vulnerable people. But instead, the Tories want us to blame colleagues that aren’t ­persuaded of the vaccination’s safety for the fact that Britain’s death rate is so appallingly high.”
 
“I’m fully vaccinated and I want my colleagues to be too, but I think we need persuasion, not ­punishment. The government’s move is counter-productive.”
 
Health unions that earlier spoke out against mandatory vaccinations have become much quieter since ­legislation was passed last year.
 
 
The unions issue ample advice on how to best protect individuals facing the sack. But there is little to suggest they will run a political campaign against such a dangerous government policy—despite the Tories’ weaknesses.
 
Senior Unison union activist and nurse Karen Reissmann says there are key reasons for this. “My union is avoiding organising a campaign to challenge this disastrous policy,” she said.
 
“Maybe they believe that most health workers have bought into the government’s scapegoating. They also seem to have underestimated how many people could be dismissed.”
 
Figures detailing the vaccination status of people working in the NHS in England are in chaos, with at least three different databases being used. “I’ve heard of trusts saying initially that 900 workers were affected. But after writing to staff they’ve now reduced that estimate by 200 people,” said Karen.
 
“That’s good but that could still amount to around 10 percent of the workforce. If any individual NHS trust were to lose anything like that number the results would be devastating.”
 
Unison has also quietened down its opposition to mandatory vaccination since Labour voted in favour of the new laws. More than 70,000 NHS staff could be unvaccinated as the regulations are enforced. Workers must force the hand of their union to take action to defend jobs.

Health worker says the ‘vaccine mandate was the last straw’ 
Abigail had wanted to work in health care since she was a small child. But now after three “gruelling” years of training, and six years as a midwife in London, she has decided to quit.
 
“The vaccine mandate was the last straw for me,” she told Socialist Worker. “For years I’ve worked in maternity in conditions that are unsafe.  The level of staffing is so low that mothers and their babies are often in danger.
 
“It was bad before the pandemic hit, but I think it got a lot worse during it.”
 
Former midwife Abigail

Midwife Abigail


And, says Abigail, the constant stress involved in working in an over-stretched unit had already convinced her to consider a career change. “I’ve been sick with stress because of how difficult conditions in maternity are,” she said.
 
“That means going home constantly worrying about the people in your care and whether you’ve missed something.
 
Abigail said that when the government insisted that all staff be double vaccinated to “keep patients safe” it felt to her like a “kick in the teeth”. “I’m not against Covid vaccinations,” she said. “But I think it has to be an individual choice. And in my opinion, the vaccine is not proven to be effective, or safe.
 
“So I might be prepared to have it in a couple of years, but not now.” Trust managers had a meeting with Abigail to discuss her options after she told them she was not going to get vaccinated.
 
They admitted they didn’t agree with the mandatory policy and said it had been forced on them by the government. But they also insisted there was no possibility of redeploying Abigail to a non-public facing role. 
 
So, after a very quick 15-minute chat, Abigail’s career as a midwife was over. The NHS is currently short of 3,000 midwives and according to the RCM union, some 57 percent say they are considering leaving the NHS this year.
 
With the government refusing to offer a significant pay rise to health workers, without large scale actions and strikes we can expect the situation to get worse.
 

Floods of NHS workers are leaving the profession
Across England some 17,000 fewer people were working in older adult care than before the rules about mandatory vaccines were brought into social care last year.
 
Yet shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said he was convinced to vote for the government’s motion because “we did not see the collapse in the social care workforce that was warned of” when similar legislation was passed.
 
 
Already some NHS workers that refuse to have the vaccine have also decided to stop working in healthcare.
 
“A number of our unvaccinated ambulance crew members on the lowest grades have decided to work elsewhere,” said the anonymous paramedic. “People come into the job because they want to make a difference, but then felt they were really badly treated.
 
“Now, with so many delivery firms and supermarkets offering jobs with similar pay rates, is it any wonder they are leaving?”
 

There is a terrible danger that thousands more may follow them.


Open letter against mandatory vaccines

Health workers in the Socialist Workers Party and others have initiated an open letter against mandatory vaccines.

They hope to get hundreds of health service staff, union activists and NHS campaigners to sign it. They hope it will create a group of people that can speak out in favour of vaccines, but against compulsory jabs that threaten jobs.

The letter starts by saying, “This is a difficult issue because, as health workers, we are very much in favour of the vaccine and will continue to speak to and encourage our colleagues and patients to get the vaccine for their own safety and the safety of others.”

And it notes the way the Tories have engineered a crisis in the health service, with staff “exhausted and burnt out after two years of working in emergency conditions”.

There were already over 100,000 NHS vacancies that existed before any mass exodus of staff triggered by the mandate.

The letter also points out that Those who are sceptical of the vaccine “are more likely to be black and other minority ethnicities and in the lower grades of NHS staff.”

It adds, “This scepticism is not irrational—black people in the US, the UK and in the Global South have historically been subjected to utterly unethical experiments for medical science.

“The NHS should take this scepticism head on with meetings and campaigns. 

“We do not want to see our BAME and working class colleagues driven out of the health service,” it says.

The open letter concludes by pointing out that the Tories have “pinned their entire pandemic response on the vaccine and have removed almost all other measures”.

“We call on the Tories to remove the mandate and deadline for the sake of all NHS staff, vaccinated and unvaccinated, as well as its patients,” it says.

“We call on our unions to urgently campaign to put a stop to this mandate and to the potential summary dismissal of thousands of their members,” it continues.

Health workers and campaigners should download the open letter, share it with colleagues and seek to add signatures to it.

There is also a trade union model motion that branches can seek to pass.

Together they can promote discussion and push the health service unions to defend their members and the health service under attack.

Download the open letter from bit.ly/35b5VxA

Download the trade union model motion here

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