By Tomáš Tengely-Evans
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NHS pay revolt—union wage claim does not match what workers need

This article is over 3 years, 6 months old
Issue 2717
Workers organised a feeder march from St Thomas
Workers organised a feeder march from St Thomas’ (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Activists at the forefront of the pay revolt have come out against union leaders’ attempts to dampen down workers’ demands.  

The Unison union has now issued a demand for a £2,000 pay rise for all health workers. It says that the increase should come “as soon as, and not wait till next year”.

The Royal College of Nursing is rumoured to be pushing for a bigger one.

The Unison and RCN leaders were at the forefront of pushing the three‑year pay settlement. The Tories are using this shoddy deal, which was pushed by union leaders, as an excuse to not pay NHS workers.

Anthony Johnson is an organiser for Nurses United group, which is arguing for a 15 percent pay rise.

“Across the country, there are now thousands of NHS workers self-organising and fighting for a 15 percent pay rise,” he told the Nursing Notes website.

“It is a shame that Unison as the largest health union is only going for a single pre-tax rise of £2,000 across the board.

“In stark contrast, the Royal College of Nursing at least is rumoured to be going for a double‑digits percentage.

“The unions are supposed to go big and fight for what the members actually want, not for what they might think they can get,” he said.

The union leaders have pursued a “social partnership” strategy with ministers and bosses. They hope to keep a seat at top negotiations by not rocking the boat, in order to win small improvements at work.

This strategy has failed to deliver for health workers. 

Union leaders have presided over a decade of stagnating wages, cuts, privatisation and now the coronavirus deaths of their members due to lack of proper safety kit.

It’s time to fight—and for more than the crumbs.

‘We have to rise up in unity’ 

Several hundred health workers organised a feeder march from St Thomas’ hospital, in central London, to last Saturday’s protest.

It came after a march from the hospital to Downing Street at the beginning of the month.

Chants of, “Boris, we don’t want your clap—we want our money back,” and, “Enough is enough” rang out as people marched across the road on Westminster Bridge.  Lana, a nurse in London, came to her first protest because “we need to be heard”. 

“It was very, very disappointing, very heart-breaking to be left out after we treated Boris Johnson,” she told Socialist Worker. 


“Afterwards he said he understood that we were underpaid and promised that changes were coming.”

She added, “I felt like I couldn’t sit down anymore—we have to rise up in unity for what we deserve.” 

Another nurse said she was “disgusted” by the Tory pay policy “especially after we healed Boris Johnson”.

Before the march set off across the bridge, nurse and protest organiser Mark Boothroyd told the crowd, “This is the start of the NHS pay revolt.”

He said it was the “beginning of the end” of poverty pay, budget cuts and privatisation of the NHS. 

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