Manchester police have fined a nurse £10,000 for organising a protest against low pay in the NHS.
In a shocking move Karen Reissmann, a mental health nurse in the city, was penalised after a small socially-distanced protest in the city centre.
And another person was given a £200 penalty notice for failing to provide details when asked.
Cops said the union-backed gathering was illegal under Covid-19 legislation, despite organisers ensuring everyone who came was wearing a mask and standing well away from others.
Following a police warning of possible arrests Karen agreed to end the protest. Using a microphone she had asked people to disperse—which they did.
But the cops issued the fixed penalty fine anyway, saying they had met with “a degree of non-compliance”.
There is a danger that the police crackdown will be extended to others who are fighting back. Already police have instructed striking bus workers in the city to reduce the size of their picket lines.
It could also be used in an attempt to stop people from protesting against racism on the international day of action on Saturday 20 March.
That’s why it is vital that the right to protest is defended.
Karen’s supporters are planning an online crowdfunding appeal to help pay her fine and a statement from the local labour movement demanding that workers’ rights are upheld.
It is vital that money to pay Karen’s fine and legal fees is raised quickly. But it is as important to show the state that protest organisers will not be intimidated by its bully boy tactics.
The Manchester NHS pay protest was joined by several others around Britain this weekend—with more planned across the week.
Demonstrators in Manchester were livid with the government’s 1 percent pay offer.
GMB union rep and children’s’ services worker Kaye said she had come because “I’m a strong believer in the NHS”. “My mum Margaret was a nurse at Trafford Hospital on the day Nye Bevan opened the NHS there in 1948′, she said.
“This offer is just not acceptable.”
Laura came to protest “after a year of working on a Covid ward”. “We put our lives on the line—now we’ve been slapped in the face,” she said.
And shortly before police demanded the protest be shut down, nurse Claire spoke about the mental health crisis affecting staff.
“More staff are leaving, there’s recruitment difficulties. People are burnt out,” she said.
“We’ve been calling for more staff, particularly for mental health services in the community, for 18 months or more.”
Campaigning nurse Karen Reissmann reminded the protest that the NHS was in crisis before Covid-19. “This will only get worse, if we don’t fight,” she said.
Several striking bus drivers with banners had arrived from their own picket at Go North West in north Manchester.
Unite union rep Colin Hayden said they had come to show their solidarity. “NHS workers are being treated unfairly—MPs got a huge pay rise, compare that with the dismal 1 percent NHS offer,” he said.
There were also small NHS pay protests elsewhere—including London’s Waltham Forest, Chesterfield and Lancaster.
Diana, a health worker from east London, joined one outside the prime minister’s Downing Street office.
“I’m here against the government’s insulting 1 percent pay offer,” she said. “It’s less than inflation, so it’s a pay cut. For the last eleven years we’ve had below-inflation pay awards which mean that we’ve lost on average about 20 percent of our wages.
“And, that’s on top of what they’ve put us through in the last few months. We’ve not been properly protected by the government during the pandemic.
“We’ve had enough. We need to force them to make different political choices.”
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