AMBULANCE staff, midwives and hospital staff walked out on strike yesterday in a solid action affecting the whole country.
It was the first time midwives have been out on strike for 130 years.
There is mass anger at the government for its refusal to grant 1% pay increase to staff who receive regular annual increments awarded for experience and advances in pay bands.
Tony Hughes, GMB NHS lead officer for London ambulances, told News Line: ‘Today’s strike went really well. Thousands of NHS staff were out.
‘Staff are very angry over the government’s refusal of the 1% unconsolidated pay rise.
‘In some areas, staff have seen a 20% drop in their salaries over five years and are angry at the MPs’ 11% pay rise.
‘The use of military and police drivers has given members grave concern in the attempt to break strikes.
‘The government need to consider people’s democratic rights. It’s legal to take strike action.
‘It’s illegal for contractors to break a strike, the same should apply to the military and police drivers.’
At Homerton ambulance station Unison shop steward Mark Lione told News Line: ‘The strike is going well, the support from the people of Hackney has been overwhelming.
‘The ambulance staff are supplying life and limb cover. Anyone with life threatening injuries will be treated.
‘We have already covered two cardiac arrests this morning.
‘When the Tories came in four years ago as a paramedic on this pay band it works out I was about £4,500 better off in real terms than I am now.
‘I feel particular sympathy for those on lower pay bands.
‘A third of NHS staff have second jobs. The latest pay offer from the government is derisory and part of the whole attack on the NHS.’
The Whittington Hospital at Archway had four picket lines.
Terri Wogan-Webb, the RCM shop steward and a midwife, joined the picket with the Unison members on Highgate Hill.
She said: ‘All I can say is that we want fair pay, and we support the same throughout the NHS.
‘We have had overwhelming support. This is the first time ever we have been out on strike.’
At St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington Unison steward Karen Buonaiuto told News Line: ‘I’m absolutely furious with all the cuts, we see no sign of a pay rise.
‘One nurse is doing the work of two and we are giving extra hours of our time with no recognition.
‘Young nurses will be reluctant to come into the profession if there is no reward. Many support workers and nursing assistants are really struggling to support their families.
‘The government are making us scapegoats for their cuts. It’s the government ministers who need sacking not NHS staff.’
At Northwick Park Hospital, there were over 150 strikers on the picket line belonging to RCM, RCN, Unite, Unison and GMB.
Nicola Wales, RCM workplace rep, said: ‘This is our first strike in 134 years. We have 200 midwives at Northwick Park and over 30 of them are on this picket line.
‘We have rearranged our workload to cause management maximum disruption, and to raise awareness. We have put patient care first.
‘This 1% pay rise that has been taken away from us this year is desultory. A pay increase for midwives would encourage more to join the profession. They only start on £21,000 a year.
‘The NHS is paying a fortune to agency workers to plug the gaps because there are not enough midwives.’
Kate, a midwife, said: ‘We have had enough. We have suffered too long. They will never take away our democratic right to strike. We are willing to be deported to fight for that right’
At Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, known as N and N locally, there were many lively picket lines. Unison, Unite and the RCM came together for big photo shoot at 10.30am.
Annie Hipperson, Unison CSSD sterile department, said: ‘We are now expected to work with less staff. We have to do two lots of work for the same money.
‘We have had five years of pay cuts. The patients are suffering because we can’t get round all the work.
‘Most of the general public agree with us as they have to wait longer for their treatment. Especially at night there are shortages – for example two trained nurses and a bank auxiliary for 32 patients.
‘We are trying to fight. We don’t want private companies to take over. I would like to see all the unions come out together for longer. There will be more strikes.
‘It is unheard of for the midwives to strike today. We have got to make a stand and this is what we are doing.’
At Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital, Unison branch secretary John Campbell told News Line on the early-morning picket line: ‘Our action’s got off to a good start with lots of support.
‘We’ve seen the government saying “We’re all in it together”, but for public sector workers the 1% recommended rise is not acceptable.
‘Enough is enough!
‘Our strike is not aimed at any local hospital. We’ve ensured patients are not at risk.’
On the picket at King’s College hospital, London, RCM Rep Dennis Young told News Line: ‘We are striking today because the Pay Review Board’s recommendation of 1% pay rise for midwives was refused by the government, even though the 1% is not good for us.
‘Meanwhile the government have awarded themselves 11% for government ministers.
‘We are out today because we want the public to support our fight and get behind us.
‘Our staff and all NHS staffs work hard all the time to meet the huge demands on the NHS.
‘The government relies on our goodwill to work and meet these challenging demands, while many of our staff are doing extra shifts to keep up with the costs of living.
‘They government think we don’t need a pay rise, but we cannot live without it.
‘Enough is enough, this is the first time we have everyone on strike. 1% is not too much, they can afford it.
‘This government is propping up the bankers while the hospitals are cut, enough is enough.’