‘SCRAP the cap! Fair pay for nurses! Now!’ chanted over fifty nurses and Royal College of Nursing (RCN) officials outside the Department of Health in Whitehall yesterday.
Nurses held up placards that read: ‘The government has taken £5,990 from my pay packet since 2010.’ They called on health secretary Jeremy Hunt to come out and talk to them, chanting ‘Where are you Jeremy?’
The protest was one of 30 across the country, part of a day of action to launch the RCN’s ‘summer of protest’ campaign to get the government’s 1% NHS staff pay cap lifted. 270,000 RCN nursing staff are set to be balloted for industrial action up to and including strike action.
RCN member from Lewisham Hospital, southeast London, Amina Ahmed told News Line: ‘The 1% cap should be scrapped. ‘I’ve been nursing for nine years now. I’ve got four kids and I feel I’m worse off now than when I started. It’s affecting everything – childcare, housing. I’m living in one bedroom with four children. With my wages at the moment you can’t afford to get a bigger property to live in.’
She added: ‘I’m prepared to take industrial action. A lot of nurses feel the same way. Everyone is fed up with long hours and low pay. The government should go, living in London is so expensive.’
RCN member John Sheldon from West Middlesex Hospital added: ‘It’s been long enough without a decent pay rise. Prices are going up and nurses deserve recognition for the work they do. Also, we need to attract good people into the profession.
‘People want to work in places like London but the cost of living is going up, so they move out and that puts pressure on the staff. I love my job. I don’t want to be forced out because of low pay. I would go on strike for decent pay. I wouldn’t have said that last year but prices have just gone up so much. It’s even worse for newly qualified nurses. Without a pay rise the pressure on nurses will start to affect patient care.’
Josie Irwin, RCN Head of Employment Relations told the crowd outside Richmond House: ‘Today is just the start of a summer of action. This is about patients. There are not enough nurses. Their pay is so low they can get more working in supermarkets. ASDA workers had a 4.5% pay rise when nurses are losing £3,000 on average in real terms. Enough is enough! This is not dying down, this is just the start. Stand up for nurses and stand up for patients!’