“The health of the nation is worsening due to the rising cost of living and increasing levels of deprivation, there is no time to waste in demanding emergency funding and investment in both staff and services.”
By Holly Turner, NHS Workers Say No
In the past few weeks, two food banks have been opened by NHS Trusts in my Region for Staff struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. The people we are talking about here is a group of workers who literally kept the country going throughout the pandemic, whilst working in dangerously short staffed and high-risk environments following over a decade of neglect from successive Tory Governments.
This year we were faced with the disgraceful situation of the lowest paid workers in the health service being given an advance on this year’s NHS pay award (which is currently over 2 months late), just so that the NHS were not in breach of minimum wage legislation. We have workers whose rates of pay simply have not kept pace with the rate of inflation and they are struggling to feed their families, pay for fuel and afford their accommodation.
We know that this situation isn’t isolated to workers across the health service and working people have had enough of being treated with utter contempt by this Government. Everything is going up apart working people’s wages, which is why it is a priority that workers, activists, trade unionists and campaigners mobilise for the Trades Union Congress Demo on 18th June to #DemandBetter, and send a clear message that we are organising to TAKE better. This is the time to not only be organising in the NHS but across ALL sectors to fight for fair pay, an end to outsourcing of staff, to kick out the privateers and of course, kick out the Tories.
On 21st June we will see the start of a week of Industrial Action across our rail networks. The media are in a frenzy trying to pit workers against each other by comparing wages across sectors and I saw it suggested that NHS Workers would not support the RMT striking workers as we ‘could only dream of’ their salaries. This could not be further from the truth and is actually factually incorrect. Workers are supporting each other in strikes up and down the country and the TUC Demo is setting out clear demands to mobilise people in fighting for their rights and working conditions.
This is a pivotal moment when Trade Unions, Workers and all across the Labour Movement can stand together to show this Government that we are United, and this day of action must only be the beginning. Collectively this is an opportunity which we mustn’t waste, we need to see a summer of resistance against the brutality, profiteering incompetence of this Tory Government.
From an NHS Perspective, it is incredibly important that there is a strong presence on 18th June. Things in the health service are not getting any better, chronic understaffing, lack of beds and soaring waiting lists remain a critical issue. Issues around pay are simply not being addressed, the NHS Pay Award for 2022 was due on the 1st April yet there is no sign of an announcement from the Government, however we are being told to expect yet another well below inflation pay award which only equates to another year of real terms pay cuts across the service.
A third of all Registered Nurses hit retirement age within the next five years and with a current deficit of 40,000 Nurses this is extremely serious. More than 27,000 Nurses quit the NHS last year with most blaming job pressures, the pandemic and poor patient care for their decision, remaining staff are exhausted which is why we need the weight of the movement behind them in their struggle. We are in a precarious time as an increasing number of people suffer bad experiences in the NHS due to short staffing, years of underfunding and cuts, along with the pressures of the pandemic yet this is no reason to look at private providers to save us. Health is a basic human right and people cannot afford the basics, let alone pay for care. The health of the nation is worsening due to the rising cost of living and increasing levels of deprivation, there is no time to waste in demanding emergency funding and investment in both staff and services.
- Holly Turner is nurse, GMB NHS Organiser, and an activist for NHS Workers Say NO. You can follow Holly on twitter here, and NHS Workers Say No on Facebook and twitter.
- The TUC’s national cost-of-living crisis demonstration takes place on Saturday 18th June in London. Coaches are being organised from around the country – find out more here.