ALL TOGETHER FOR THE NHS! – Unison staging rallies against the ‘disastrous’ NHS Health Bill – Camden and Tower Hamlets strike against cuts

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Unison members with their banners and balloons on last Saturday’s TUC demonstration against the cuts
Unison members with their banners and balloons on last Saturday’s TUC demonstration against the cuts

UNISON is holding a lunchtime demonstration outside the main entrance of Chase Farm Hospital between 12noon and 2pm today, as part of its All Together For The NHS Day – April 1st.

The union is holding scores of demonstrations, rallies and lobbies of MPs all over the country today in cities such as Manchester, Nottingham, Bolton, Sunderland and Rotherham in opposition to the ‘disastrous consequences’ of the government’s Health and Social Care Bill.

The Bill has attracted widespread resistance from doctors, nurses, health professionals and NHS staff, says the union.

Patients, charities and unions are lining up against it and poll after poll shows that the public clearly thinks it is bad news for the health service.

Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, said: ‘The Government cannot afford to keep ignoring the anger of voters.

‘We saw nearly half a million people march through London on Saturday to protest against public service cuts.

‘April 1st will see our members again taking action to challenge their MPs and to defend the NHS against Lansley’s privatisation plans.

‘The government is a lone voice for NHS privatisation and by turning their back on the electorate, they are turning the clocks back on health care across the UK.

‘Next week Unison holds its health conference in Liverpool and I know that our members including nurses, paramedics, therapists, medical secretaries and health care assistants can’t wait to declare this Health and Social Care Bill – DOA – dead on arrival.

‘Nye Bevan provides us with this inspirational quote – “The NHS will last as long as there are folks left with the faith to fight for it” – and we are ready to fight tooth and nail for it.’

Unison itemised its opposition to the component part of the Bill:

• Big cuts in health spending. These are being taken from patient care and leading to job losses – including clinical staff – across the NHS.

• Opening up the NHS to private profit. Taxpayers’ money destined for NHS patients will be diverted into shareholder profits.

• NHS patients will be pushed to the back of the queue because the proposed Bill will take the cap off the amount hospitals can earn from private patients.

• It means competition, not co-operation. The government wants to run the NHS through competition between different health providers and market forces.

• It will create a huge postcode lottery. The care patients can expect will vary from place to place, increasing costs and health

• inequalities and hurting vulnerable people the most. No-one voted for this.

• The NHS is working and public satisfaction with the NHS is at an all-time high.

Among the events being held today are the Chase Farm Hospital, Enfield – 12-2pm demonstration outside main hospital entrance;

East Midlands Nottingham 12 noon lunchtime demonstration at Standard Court;

Two lunchtime campaign stalls at Royal Bolton Hospital;

Sunderland Royal Hospital 12.30-1.30pm demonstration;

Redhill town centre, 12-2pm demonstration by Surrey and Sussex Healthcare branch and staff, including two ‘April Fools’ jesters, will be leafleting;

Rotherham General Hospital 12.30-1pm protest outside the hospital gates.

A demonstration and rally of 500 Camden NUT members, supported by parents and students, with other union members marched through Camden on Wednesday morning.

The march was led by Camden Teachers Association, with banners from South Camden Community School, Haverstock, Hampstead, Acland Burghley, Richard Cobden, Carlton and Primrose Hill Primary School, supported by NUT Ealing Association and a banner from the RMT.

Chanting: ‘No ifs, no buts, no education cuts!’ they made their way to the Town Hall to demand an end to Camden Council’s devastating cuts to central and support services.

Speaking to News Line on the march, teacher at Haverstock School, Nadia Amara, agreed that Camden were making these cuts because of the coalition government, and said ‘Of course, everybody has to come out in a general strike.

‘I heard a report of it costing £2 million per hour to drop bombs on Libya. I find that absolutely obscene.

‘There is no shortage of resources, except for our services.’

A packed rally at NUT headquarters, Hamilton House, heard NUT Secretary Christine Blower say to the government: ‘We don’t want your cuts. We don’t want your privatisation.

‘We want our schools and services and we want a Robin Hood tax. We are the Big Society!’

Camden Teachers Association Secretary, Andrew Baisley, told the rally: ‘This is an unprecedented attack on Camden’s services.

‘Two children’s centres will be closed. They are thinking about introducing charges in state nurseries, which I think is shameful.

‘The Cognition and Learning team will go in the summer.

‘There are many other cuts to the poorest and most vulnerable children.

‘We have won some victories: protection against redundancies and no more cuts than are already planned.

‘The root of all this was the recession. Those responsible for it have lavish hand-outs.

‘We need many more days like Saturday (TUC March) and today. An injury to one is an injury to all.’

Julia Leeward from the Schools Improvement Service, which has been ‘restructured’, losing 22 posts, said, ‘We appreciate the support given to us and the fantastic turn-out today.

‘The nationally-recognised excellence of the service in Camden we strongly believe is worth fighting for.’

George Binette, Camden Unison Branch Secretary, said ‘Saturday’s magnificent demonstration was the best possible rebuttal to the obituaries in the media for trade unionism and Cameron’s rejection of a multi-cultural society.

‘From today, the step forward is co-ordinated strike action.

‘If Gove, Cameron and Clegg do not back down, we must bring down the system of neo-liberal capitalism that they have been so keen to inflict on all of us.’

School student Ruby from Acland Burghley, brought her support for the strike, saying it was ‘our education too’.

‘We must build now for a general strike,’ she concluded.

• Two thousand striking Tower Hamlets NUT and Unison members marched from Weavers Fields to a rally in the Whitechapel Muslim Centre on Wednesday.

NUT rep at Sir William Burrough School, Ruth Bennett, was on the march with a large contingent of teachers from the school.

Ruth said: ‘We are not striking for our own jobs but for a large number of jobs in the school support services.

‘If we do not resist this there will be a whole series of cuts. It is also to let parents know this is happening to their children’s education.

‘A lot of parents are joining the march today. These cuts are all about bringing in privatisation of education.’

Unison striker and parent Fiona Keogh said: ‘This is the start of our voices being heard. Cuts are being made when it is not necessary.’

Anita Gardner, a Unison striker working at a children’s centre, said: ‘I feel strongly about the cuts being made not just in Tower Hamlets but across the country.

‘It has taken years to build up the level of services we have at the moment and if they are cut we may never see them again.’

Addressing marchers in Weavers Fields, NUT Deputy General Secretary Kevin Courtney said:

‘Congratulations to teachers and support staff for standing up for the most vulnerable children.

‘Teachers for the deaf and disabled are being cut when the government is spending millions on the Free Schools programme.’