Healthworkers: Understaffed... Underpaid... BURNT OUT!
'Let's fight to win on NHS pay and funding'
Protest on 3 July!
A London NHS worker
Local protests and demonstrations are being organised all over the country on the NHS's birthday, 3 July. We will be demanding a real pay rise, proper funding, enough staff to ensure patient safety, and an end to privatisation and marketisation.
Staff are exhausted, traumatised and angry - a fact now recognised in the latest health and social care report by MPs; not that they offer any real solution!
For many healthworkers the insulting 1% pay offer from the government is the last straw. There is a determination to fight, including taking strike action.
The Pay Review Body is due to give its recommendation on NHS pay for England and Wales this month. This is likely to be another insultingly low figure. It is crucial that this should be met with a coordinated campaign of action by health unions, backed up by support from other unions, local NHS campaigns and local communities.
Coordinated strike action is the surest way to win a real pay rise for NHS staff. The grassroots demand for 15%, now adopted by most unions, should be the absolute minimum. NHS pay has been reduced by around 20% since 2010.
Strikes would also show the Tory government that it cannot abuse the NHS and get away with it. Its current White Paper is a privatisers' charter, aiming to allow private companies onto boards that commission services. They might as well just hand over the chequebook now!
The establishment media, which couldn't say enough about what heroes we were a year ago, is now turning on NHS staff, accusing us of being 'greedy'. It isn't greed to want to be able to pay our rent and bills without struggling. It isn't greed that makes us fight for a wage that could retain staff, instead of them leaving in droves because they can't afford to live.
It isn't greed to demand safe staffing levels to ensure patient safety, or to demand outsourced staff are brought back in-house on NHS pay and conditions. It's not greed to fight for the resources needed to bring down waiting lists.
The real greed we see is the private companies bleeding the NHS dry for their own profits. Billions of pounds of public money was spent on dodgy PPE contracts last year with private companies - which in some cases failed even to provide the PPE so desperately needed in health and social care.
Where health workers fight, we can win. A joint strike by NHS workers in Northern Ireland won equal pay with NHS staff in England and Wales in the first strike after Johnson was elected in December 2019.
During the pandemic, strikes in health have continued. In two hospitals in East Lancashire, security staff who demanded their contracts were brought back into the NHS, won.
For the future of our NHS, let's fight to win on NHS pay and funding.
In The Socialist 8 June 2021:
What we think
Lessons from history