Mass Rallies Put Forward Demands of Health Care Workers

On August 8, workers with Britain's National Health Service (NHS) held physically-distanced marches to defend their dignity and to speak out loud and clear that public sector pay inequality is not acceptable. Their central demand was for a 15 per cent increase in the level of pay that has been kept suppressed for a decade. In more than 30 cities, towns and smaller communities in England, Scotland and Wales, thousands of nurses and other NHS workers took to the streets in protest against the government's refusal to offer a pay rise despite their heroism during the coronavirus pandemic. The biggest protest took place in London and involved a march on Downing Street that ended with a rally. Workers fell silent for two minutes as a mark of respect for colleagues who have lost their lives fighting Covid-19. Marchers were applauded by members of the public as they were heading to Downing Street and chants of "Boris Johnson hear us shout, pay us properly or get out" were directed at No 10 which is the official residence and the office of the British Prime Minister. Among the placards in the various actions, there were some saying merely "540," the number of NHS and care workers who have died from coronavirus.. Other placards read "Covid hero, pay rise zero," "Stop giving nurses the clap," "From hero to zero," "Nurses are for life, not just for lockdown," etc.

Statement of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign (SSTHC)
on the Occasion of the March

In preparation for the march, the SSTCH issued a statement entitled " Statement of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign on the Nurses' Pay Upsurge."

It said:

"On Saturday, August 8, nurses and healthcare workers, supported by health campaigners and many other supporters, will hold a physically-distanced march from the Royal Victoria Infirmary through Newcastle for a rally at the Monument. This is part of nationwide protests by nurses and healthcare workers throughout the country in some 30 cities and towns.

"This follows on from Wednesday, July 29, when thousands of nurses and other care and health workers marched through London to Downing Street demanding a wage rise and a stop to the attacks on the NHS, with the organisers of the demonstration demanding 'No! to public sector inequality and pay justice.'

"Nurses and other health workers are speaking in their own name and taking up the fight, both to improve their own pay, and at the same time to take part in the struggle to safeguard the future of the NHS and care services.

"Since the hypocrisy of Boris Johnson and the government has been exposed in clapping health and care workers one day and omitting them from a wage rise the next, nurses have been expressing their anger on social media and in other forums. Now they are taking to the streets, supported by doctors and others, in a series of marches and demonstrations.

"In our discussions, SSTHC highlighted statements of very angry nurses that showed it was not just about the pay but the whole neglect of the welfare of all health staff. At the same time, they have had to endure constant attacks on the NHS, increased privatisation, staffing cuts, the cutting of student nurse bursaries and the promotion of commercialisation being put above patient care. Also discussed was that health workers are struggling from the imposition of austerity, as are so many people, both working and unemployed. Some health workers are having to use food banks to eat, and struggling to pay their bills after years of real-terms pay cuts finished off by a disastrous three-year low pay deal that again left many more experienced nurses worse off. Nurses have lost as much as 20 per cent of their pay in real terms over the last 10 years. This has driven many to leave, unable to endure the stress of attempting to deliver patient care to the level they know should be offered to all as a right.

"Right from the beginning, nurses, care workers and others in many different groups have made it clear that they support those in public service receiving a wage increase, and they also know that many of these services are also being cut to fund so-called 'wage rises.' They have also expressed opposition to the Trade Bill and other attacks on the NHS by the government. This is a government that has used the COVID-19 crisis to further line the pockets of private health monopolies and other private companies such as Serco and Deloitte, whilst continuing with planned closures to hospitals and A&Es (emergency departments), together with downgrading services throughout the crisis. These are services that are vital in delivering healthcare to the people, the downgrading of which had resulted in many unnecessary deaths.

"What this new upsurge of nurses and care workers reflects is that what is being done to undermine their pay and conditions and the NHS is certainly not in their name. As one experienced nurse who had worked through the Covid-19 crisis put it in our SSTHC discussion: 'The nurses and other care workers are now speaking out in their name for a new future that upholds and guarantees their well-being as part of guaranteeing the right of all to healthcare at the highest standard society can achieve. This is not some future dream. This is what the authorities should address now, and nurses and healthcare workers should be empowered to make the decisions in the future for a new, human-centred healthcare system for our NHS, our hospitals, our community and mental health services, and our workplaces.'"

With the day of action, the health care workers clearly expressed that the whole future direction of the NHS is at stake, and there must be no return to the so-called "business as usual."

(With files from Workers' Weekly and Morning Star. Photos: Save South Tyneside Hospital)

This article was published in

Number 54 - August 13, 2020

Article Link:
Britain: Mass Rallies Put Forward Demands of Health Care Workers


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