WITH THE Royal College of Nursing launching a £35 million strike fund to defeat the Tory government’s 1% NHS pay insult at the weekend, Labour shadow ministers said yesterday that they would be prepared to join nurses on picket lines.
A new opinion poll published in yesterday’s Observer newspaper also revealed that the majority of people in the country would back nurses’ strike action, with 72% demanding that they receive a substantial pay rise
Labour Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds reported yesterday that under Tory plans, newly qualified nurses are facing a real-terms pay cut of £307 over the next two years!
On the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday morning, Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said that he would be ready to join nurses’ picket lines.
He said: ‘Rishi Sunak stood up and said the NHS will get all the money it needs for Covid. They’re now asking NHS staff to take a pay cut to pay for the Covid pressures. That is unfair.’
Marr said: ‘The RCN are raising money for a strike. I’m asking you, would you support a strike?’
Initially, Ashworth prevaricated, saying: ‘Our nurses don’t want to go on strike,’ but Marr persisted: ‘If they did go on strike would you back them?’
Ashworth then told Marr: ‘I will always support our nurses and I will always stand by our nurses and I will always support the rights of staff to take industrial action but we don’t want to get to that place, so the government have to drop this 1 per cent pay rise, which is a pay cut. I talk to nurses all the time and they don’t want to go on strike, and I’ll always stand by them.’
Marr persisted: ‘John McDonnell said yes of course he would join them on a picket line. Would you?’
Finally, Ashworth said: ‘I’ve always supported the right of people to take industrial action and I’ve always appeared on picket lines of NHS staff.’
Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy delivered a similar message, saying she ‘always supports nurses’ and is ‘determined to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with nurses to get them a pay rise’.
Unite also said it could ballot members for strike action after the ‘insulting’ 1 per cent figure was proposed by the Department of Health.