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30 June 2021

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Editorial of the Socialist issue 1140

NHS after 3 July protests

Trade unions must organise serious action

Demanding a 15% pay rise for NHS workers, 8th August 2020, Manchester, photo Sally G

Demanding a 15% pay rise for NHS workers, 8th August 2020, Manchester, photo Sally G   (Click to enlarge)

The NHS protests around the country on 3 July should be the start of building a mass campaign for decent pay and to save the NHS. Well over a million people work in the NHS. Organised in trade unions, backed up by community campaigns, these workers have tremendous potential power.

NHS workers have campaigned for a 15% pay rise. The Tories proposed an insulting 1% to workers who have spent the last 16 months working themselves to exhaustion to save lives.

Following an NHS Pay Review Body recommendation, the Tories are due to announce what they will offer any day - potentially right at the end of the parliamentary term.

Any announcement which does not give NHS workers what they deserve should be met with immediate protests from the NHS trade unions, and they should make clear their intention to prepare for national coordinated strike action.

The rest of the public sector faces a pay freeze. With a bold lead from the tops of their respective unions, care workers, teachers, civil servants, council workers and so on would respond to a call for joined-up action.

And it's not only the question of pay. Despite batting away calls for a Covid inquiry, with the claim that it would be a distraction from fighting the pandemic, the Tories have nonetheless found time to produce a white paper on the future of the NHS in England.

A new health and care bill could be published at any time (see opposite page). Even if it is delayed by the resignation of former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the Tories' aims remain clear.

If it is based on the white paper, the bill will be a blueprint for further privatisation, a reduction in democratic checks, and the further break-up of a national service. It must be opposed.

There should be protests at Parliament when the bill is debated and a national NHS demonstration, all of which would help prepare the ground for the necessary strike action.

Fightback potential

The potential to build a fightback is clear. Workers in a whole number of workplaces and sectors, from construction and buses to housing and schools, have recently been on strike, some achieving important victories. Members of the Royal College of Nursing and GMB union voted to reject the 4% pay rise offered by the Scottish government.

Kick out the Privatisers! photo: Paul Mattsson

Kick out the Privatisers! photo: Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Importantly, members of Unison, the biggest public sector union and the biggest union in the NHS, voted for change in the national executive elections.

The left, including four Socialist Party members, now has a majority on the National Executive Council (NEC), surrounding recently elected right-wing general secretary Christine McAnea.

Disgracefully, Unison's Health Service Group Executive, still dominated by the right wing, refused to back the 3 July NHS protests.

Socialist Party members will appeal to others on the NEC to ensure a fighting stance and plan of action is laid out urgently, to make it clear to members in the NHS and the wider public sector that the new union executive will live up to the expectations placed on it by members desperate for a fight.

Hancock's resignation is just the latest in a series of events that expose the weakness and divisions in the Tories.

A serious campaign on the NHS can be instrumental in the fight to kick them all out. It means part of the struggle has to be to fight for an alternative: a new mass working-class party that can articulate workers' anger; campaign for a programme of a 15% pay rise, full funding and to end the privatisation of the NHS; and fight for a socialist government that can implement such a programme.

See also: Fight the health and care bill

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In The Socialist 30 June 2021:

What we think

NHS after 3 July protests Trade unions must organise serious action


Fight to save our NHS

Royal London Hospital

Fight the health and care bill

Keep private hands off NHS patient data

We don't want a USA-style healthcare system


Post-pandemic railway battles loom

East Mids train guards strike


Stop the Channel 4 sell-off!

Hopeless Hancock replaced

Millionaires multiply during pandemic

Dalian Atkinson - police found guilty of killing ex-footballer

Biden police reform

Can Biden reform the police?

Workplace news

Socialist candidate wins NIPSA general secretary election

Gateshead: Sacked electricians reinstated

Support Gary Clark for CWU executive

Support Sharon Graham for Unite general secretary

End bullying and victimisation at Oaks Park school

Unite members step up action against bullying Mungo's managers

Sandwell Leisure workers: No to 'fire and rehire'


The Israeli working class

German Greens: The image and reality


Protesters halt Nadia's eviction

Brighton: Moulsecoomb strike against academisation

York residents demand land for local community needs

Young Socialists march in London

Pride is a campaign, not a business opportunity

Readers' opinion

TV Review: GB News

Readers' comments


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