Health workers to march on Downing Street for pay rise

“69% of the British public believe all NHS staff should get an early pay rise before the end of the year.”

By the Labour Assembly Against Austerity Team

This Saturday 8 August will see health workers march on Downing Street as part of a series of nationwide protests for an early increase in NHS pay. The protests are supported by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity and grassroots health worker organisations like Nurses United.

Trade unions have increasingly been demanding action on pay. These events follow a pay rise announced for public sector workers by the Chancellor on 21 July which excluded nurses and care workers. 

NHS workers are currently in the final year of a three-year pay deal, and they are not due to pay rise until April 2021. 
The Nuffield Trust recently reported that following years of Tory pay restraint, nurses pay is currently 8% below what they earned in 2010, in real terms. This has contributed to a growing vacancy list of 40,000 nursing places in the NHS. 
On 3 July, 14 trade unions said the government should ‘commit now to early discussions and to bringing forward a meaningful early pay rise’ and said ‘ The pay deals signed in 2018 were a start after years of pay capping and freezes but did not restore the value lost over a much longer period’.

However, following that letter, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a public sector pay deal that excluded nurses and care workers. The government has cited the existing deal as a reason for not awarding them a pay rise in 2020.
In response, Unite the Union has said, ‘Our amazing NHS staff deserve a pay boost now, not in April 2021. Don’t make them wait a minute longer. The government’s failure to include NHS staff in its pay rise pledge to public sector workers in ‘recognition of their help in tackling Covid-19’ is inexcusable.’

For several weeks, people up and down the country clapped for our carers every Thursday, to thank NHS staff for their response to the crisis – so much so that the Prime Minister and other politicians felt obliged to take part. 
That public outpouring of support is demonstrated in polling that shows people want their NHS staff to be rewarded.
Result for health union Unison found 69% of the British public believe all NHS staff should get an early pay rise before the end of the year.

Only 10% believe they should have to wait until next April. And 66% think the wage increase for healthcare employees should be “significant” in light of the coronavirus pandemic context that has put frontline workers in danger.
Unison head of health Sara Gorton, said ‘investment for a much-deserved pay increase. Otherwise, health workers will discover the government has no intention of matching words with actions’.

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said, ‘We are facing a perfect storm for recruitment and retention in the NHS – in a decade of Tory austerity, NHS staff have seen their pay cut by 20 per cent in real terms and many are considering leaving the health service’ and ‘This sense of anger was heightened, especially in light of their work and sacrifices during the global pandemic which has taken the lives of more than 500 NHS and social care staff across the UK.’

Labour MPs have also been offering support for better pay for health workers.

Earlier this year in June, new Coventry South MP Zarah Sultana said, ‘millions of people across the country went out every Thursday to clap for health and care workers. Now it is our responsibility to match that appreciation with meaningful action— with NHS staff and carers getting the real pay rise and recognition that they so richly deserve.’

And since the Chancellor’s pay announcement Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, and Socialist Campaign Group Secretary Richard Burgon have spoken out in support of nurses whilst former union officer and new Liverpool Wavertree MP Paula Barker has tabled an EDM in support of an early pay offer

But the chancellor Rishi Sunak is still refusing to convert claps into cash. 

That’s why Labour activists need to demonstrate their support for health workers in their pay demands.

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