‘WHAT do we want? Pay rise! How will we get it? Strike!’ shouted over 200 nurses and NHS workers marching from St Thomas’ Hospital in central London to Downing Street on Wednesday afternoon.
The protest was part of nationwide action outside hospitals and in city centres around the country, organised by nurses.
They are demanding a 15% pay rise.
As the health workers lined up for the march, News Line spoke to them about why they were so angry.
Radiographer Caitlin McLarty in the Royal Society of Radiographers told News Line: ‘People have been working very hard over this last period and we feel that our efforts are not being rewarded.’
Josephine Kpabar, a student nurse in the RCN working at St Thomas’ Hospital, said: ‘I feel so angry! We are overworked, understaffed, underpaid.
‘We receive the least amount of pay you could ever think of.
‘We desperately need more funding for the NHS.
‘We need to be recognised.
‘Prime Minister Boris Johnson was treated here at St Thomas’ Hospital.
‘He came out saying how nicely he was treated … and now he is treating us so very badly.
‘We need leaders who understand what we do. A government which knows what it’s like to get up early, to do a night shift.
‘We need to form our own government, made up of ordinary people.’
Nzinga Laurence, a staff nurse in the RCN said: ‘We need to do what we need to do and if that means strike, then so be it.
‘Without NHS staff what would everyone have done during the height of the pandemic?
‘A pay rise is the minimum we should get for what we have done.
‘Nurses do not go into the profession for the money.
‘They do it for the love of the job.
‘We can’t just carry on because that is what is expected of us.
‘The student nurses’ and midwives’ bursary must be brought back in full.
‘I was fortunate enough to have received a bursary.
‘Nursing is not attractive for prospective students when they know they will end up with a massive debt at the end of it that they will not be able to pay back.’
Giedre a health care assistant said: ‘There is not a lot of coverage of our protests on the mainstream media.
‘We are fighting for pay, but this is much wider than that. All working people must fight for their rights.
‘It used to be that if you had a job in the NHS, you were secure. Now you are just surviving.
‘Everyone must join together and stand up and fight.
‘Two parents working can not pay their bills now.
‘Other unions must come out with us to strike for the NHS.’
Alexander Millen said: ‘I have come here to support my girlfriend who has come all the way from Australia to work in the NHS.
‘It is amazing there are people here from so many countries around the world, all working for the NHS.
‘Everybody in the entire country has benefitted from the NHS in the last six months.
‘So everyone should come out on strike to defend the NHS.
‘I am a socialist myself. The pathetic efforts of this government during this coronavirus crisis prove that the Tories must go. This country has one of the worst death tolls from coronavirus out of anywhere in the world.
‘NHS workers have died of the virus, others have been mentally scarred by what they themselves have been through.
‘They must get a pay rise.’
Merle, a student, said: ‘I think it’s ridiculous that nurses have been denied a pay rise. Clearly they most deserve it. I don’t understand it.
‘I’m a volunteer in the vaccine trial.
‘I don’t think the Tories are fit to be running the country. It’s one U-turn after another, and they’re just not doing it.
‘The NHS is for the public. No body should be profiteering off the NHS.
‘This government should go. I support a workers’ government and socialism.’
A nurse from St Thomas’ Hospital, Keno, said: ‘I’m supporting the pay rise. We should be included in the public sector pay rise. It’s very unfair. We have done so much work during the Covid-19 crisis.
‘We put our lives on the line. We have families, but because we chose that profession, we must go on.
‘There is no proper PPE (Personal Protection Equipment). They’re always changing the protocol. It’s not about safety, it’s about lack of supplies.
‘I feel the Conservative government is more leaning to rich people – the upper echelons and not to the middle class or the worker.’
Nurse, Neomi Bennett, said: ‘I am here today for equality for black nurses, who are disproportionately on the front line.
‘The government have predicted a new wave of coronavirus – but there are still no risk assessments on the national plan to protect us.
‘They don’t give us proper PPE. Some trusts were selecting who they were giving it to. When I was working in June, this was the case. A lot of black nurses were forced into the front line, when others were doing desk jobs. Everything was disorganised, with not enough beds.
‘At the start, they wouldn’t even give us a mask. Only lately, they said we have to have one. They spent all that money on masks that were not fit for purpose. How did that happen?
‘The hospitals were overwhelmed at the beginning – like a war zone. Action was taken too late.
‘The last march for pay was very well organised with social distancing.’
Ouside Downing Street, nurse at the Royal Free Hospital, Efe Umurhohwo, told the crowd: ‘We cannot survive on our pay. We cannot be silent any more and have to speak out.
‘Nurses are suffering, we need a fifty per cent pay rise. They can spend millions on Big Ben, but we are struggling to pay our rent.’