NURSES, midwives and NHS workers around the country take to the streets again today to demand a 15% pay rise and they are extremely angry.
They have been treated with utter contempt by the Tory government who cynically lauded them during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic and then proceeded to kick them in the teeth.
The government offered everyone in the public sector a pay rise except nurses! When it came to nurses, carers and other NHS staff they were not offered a penny rise!
These are dedicated workers, who were in hospitals around the clock. They had to deal with the dying and also had to deal with the dead. In some cases the morgues at the back of the hospitals were full and refrigerated trucks were brought in to store the dead bodies.
Coronavirus patients who were terminal were looked after by NHS staff, who were the only ones there to hold their hands and comfort them as they died. Terminal patients could not say goodbye to their families, no visitors were allowed on hospital sites.
Not only did this mean that nurses had to care for the dying, but when they died it was the nurses who had to then break the news to the families. Many of the nurses were very young, as student nurses had been given special status to be able to go on the frontline as the NHS was so short staffed.
After going through these traumatising experiences the government did not even raise their pay to levels on which a person can live on.
Nurses have suffered years of a pay freeze. This has meant that as everything has gone up, food, rent, electricity, gas, their wages have remained frozen in time buying less and less.
There are many stories of nurses being forced to visit foodbanks just to stay alive. And of course many nurses, doctors and NHS staff got infected and died. More than 6,500 health and care workers were infected with coronavirus through their work, and as many as 600 died.
The Tory government is responsible for their lack of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). They were not even provided the most basic protection like gloves, aprons and masks.
On top of that, the student nurses and student midwives, who in the past received a bursary which covered their university tuition fees and went some way to helping towards their living expenses and accommodation, now receive nothing. Those who are studying to become nurses or midwives now have to take out loans, many ending up over £50,000 in debt.
Meanwhile, the Tory government has spent the last decade years closing down A&Es, maternity departments, children’s wards and even entire hospitals up and down the country. There is now a shortage of beds, of staff, of equipment.
The doctors and nurses are now doing the job of three people. Everyone is overworked and underpaid. No wonder nurses have had enough.
Unite the union said yesterday: ‘NHS workers should receive an early pay rise of 15 per cent or £3,000, whichever is greater.’ Unite has 100,000 members in the health service and 1.4 million members across the UK.
The way forward is clear. If Unite is serious about winning a 15% pay rise for nurses then it must mobilise the full force of its union.
Every single one of its 1.4 million members have to rely on the NHS from the cradle to the grave. Every single one of its members must be mobilised in an all-out strike to defend the NHS and win the nurses the pay rise they urgently need.
Such a strike must be backed by the entire trade union movement. Now is the time to act. The TUC must call a general strike to defend the NHS and win the claim.
A nationwide strike would bring this Tory government down in days. This government must be kicked out now, through mass strike action, and be replaced by a workers government.
A workers government, carrying out socialist policies will immediately re-open all shut hospitals, reopen all closed departments, restore the student nurses and midwives bursary in full, and engage on a mass recruitment drive to make sure that the NHS is fully staffed and working, aided by the highest level of medical science.