NURSES, midwives and NHS workers around the country are enraged by the Tory plan set out in the Chancellor’s budget to ‘reward’ them with a 1% rise.
On hearing the news, the RCN council have voted to set up a £35m industrial action fund. Health workers are determined that they will not be treated like serfs by a Tory government that has been ‘clapping’ for them since the pandemic began, and now wants to dump them!
The very nurses and NHS workers, who saved Tory PM Johnson’s life when he went down with coronavirus and was hospitalised at St Thomas’, are now being kicked in the teeth by the Johnson government.
The Tories have frozen nurses’ and NHS staff’s pay for years, while inflation let rip and everything has soared in the shops. Gas, electric, water bills, rent, council tax, have all over the last decade spiralled out of control, while wages have been held down leading to the horrific situation where nurses have been driven to food banks in order to feed their families.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has demanded 12.5%. Unite has called for 15%. RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair warned 1% would mean an increase of just £3.50 a week in take-home pay for an experienced nurse. ‘This is pitiful and bitterly disappointing,’ she said.
NHS workers have had to deal with the dying and the dead for over a year now. 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 then to break the news to the families.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was lacking. Lack of gowns, lack of surgical gloves, of masks, of faceshields. Tens of thousands of NHS staff got infected. The number of NHS workers who have died from coronavirus could well be over 1,000 by now. The latest figures show that over 850 NHS workers died of Covid between March and December 2020 alone.
During the height of the pandemic, the government promoted a weekly ‘clap for carers’, to show their ‘appreciation for frontline heroes’. But of course the reality of the government’s ‘appreciation’ is to ‘reward’ these same workers with 1%.
The Office for National Statistics put the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation rate at 0.7% in January which would all but cancel out the so-called pay rise. However, when you take the Retail Price Index (RPI), a separate and more realistic measure of inflation, inflation has increased to 1.4% in January. In other words what the Tories are offering NHS staff is a real-terms paycut!
Nurses and other NHS workers have marched again and again over the last year with placards such as ‘No more rainbows, no more claps, we want a 15% pay rise now!’
To add insult to injury, 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.
Under the fundamental trade union principle ‘an injury to one, is an injury to all’ the entire working class must be mobilised over this issue. Every single worker in this country relies on the NHS from the cradle to the grave. Nurses, midwives and NHS staff are extremely busy saving lives, they had the first strike in their 100-year history last year and another is looming. It falls on the rest of the working class to rise up in defence of the NHS and NHS staff.
Every single member of the TUC trade unions must be mobilised in an all-out strike to defend the NHS and win the nurses at the least a 12.5% pay rise. Such a general strike will win the claim and bring down the Tory government, bringing in a workers government in its place.
This will fully restore the NHS and undo the savage cuts that led to the desperate struggle that we have seen in the last year against the coronavirus which has cost so many lives and ruined many more.