“Keir Starmer, you said that when you clapped for carers you meant it, now it’s time to prove that by listening to the workers and backing #NHSPay15.”Holly Turner
Last summer a group of Nurses created NHS Workers Say No, a campaign group fighting for pay justice for all NHS workers after a decade of real terms cuts to our wages. We kicked off the #NHSPay15 movement to increase pressure on the Government to pay us what we are owed. We felt that this is what we had to do to keep our patients safe, and to support in safeguarding the future of our health service. We have built a network of pay activists all across the UK, and there is also strong public pressure for a restorative 15 percent pay rise for NHS workers. NHS Workers Say No have received nearly 800,000 signatures on two online petitions and a YouGov poll in January this year found that 75% of the British public support at least a 10% pay rise for nurses. Major Trade Unions such as GMB and UNITE also support our demand for a restorative 15 percent pay rise.
When we have seen Nurses pay cut by a fifth, it’s no surprise that we find ourselves with over 40,000 Nurse vacancies in the NHS. We know that pre pandemic there were over 100,000 vacancies across the NHS, but what does that actually look like in reality? It leaves us in a situation where we are battling unsafe staffing levels daily, which impacts on both patient care, and the physical and emotional well-being of staff. It also leaves us faced with waiting lists at a record high, at a time when our patient’s dependence on us is increasing all the time.
Recent studies showed that the figure of 100,000 vacancies is predicted to rise to 250,000 by 2030. We know from polling that 1 in 3 Nurses want to quit, so we are hurtling into an alarming situation. Without a restorative pay increase an already chronically understaffed workforce will be destroyed, and would be a move which would speed up privatisation in the NHS. We will be see more NHS staff leaving or potentially working for outsourced companies and privatisation will speed up at an alarming rate which will have consequences for us all. Without the workers, there is no NHS.
We work in the largest safety critical profession in the UK, and in order to do our jobs properly we need adequate, safe staffing levels. Without pay justice for all NHS workers, things are not going to change; in fact they are only going to get worse and more desperate. How on earth can we be expected to retain our highly skilled and experienced staff when they are repeatedly beaten down and degraded by this Government?
After a decade of real terms cuts to our wages, with some workers losing up to 32%, the government’s recent offer of a 1 percent pay rise increase – a further real terms pay cut – is a kick in the teeth and adds insult to severe injury. NHS Workers Say No are urging Keir Starmer for more action, asking the leader of the opposition why, despite having called the 1 percent pay rise insulting and pitiful, he has failed to make clear what he thinks acceptable pay rise should be, other than it should be “at least 2.1%” and “fair”. This is not good enough from the leader of the opposition. Throughout the pandemic, Keir Starmer has been vocal about how much he values the NHS and its workers. As leader of the opposition, representing a party with a proud history of championing public services and fair treatment of workers, we should be able to count on his support to unilaterally prove this now.
We have created an open letter to Keir Starmer asking him to step up and get behind frontline NHS workers, so far it has been signed been widely signed by healthcare academics, organisations, celebrities, activists and MPs. We have also received thousands of signatures from NHS workers online who are demanding that the party that formed the NHS, fight to save the NHS. Keir Starmer you said that when you clapped for carers you meant it, now it’s time to prove that by listening to the workers and backing #NHSPay15.
- Holly Turner is an NHS nurse and activist in the ‘NHS Workers Say No!’ campaign.
- NHS Workers Say No!’s open letter to Keir Starmer can be found and signed here.