Nurses express fury at the holding down of pay

Katherine Youngs, RCN member and Leeds Socialist Party

On 6th September, the day that parliament opened, over 1,000 nurses from all over the UK set on Parliament Square in London to make their voices heard and to ensure that the government lifts the 1% public sector pay cap.

Chants rang out of ‘Scrap the Cap’, dogs, children and nurses carried banners, and there was a lot of noise made. Comedian and actor Tony Robinson gave a heartfelt speech stating how fantastic nurses are and how the government has constantly slapped them in the face time after time. Many RCN staff members and members of the nursing profession told stories of their situation, living five to a one-bedroom house, or not being able to put food on the table for their family.

Many talked about the shortage of staff on the wards, where two staff are often used instead of eight, and although they love doing their work and giving patient care, they feel this is being jeopardised. Some newly qualified nurses there mentioned how they had thought about moving out of the profession because they were feeling demoralised and under paid but did not want to leave their patients suffering.

Comedian and actor Rob Delaney talked about how the NHS system is so superior to that in the US, where the healthcare system is based on what you can afford and not what you need. He reflected on his and his family’s experiences of this and said that we need to all come together as the nurses were today to let the government know exactly what we think about it selling off bits of the NHS and not giving public sector workers – and in this case caring nurses that glue the NHS together – the finances that they deserve.

While nurses were taking time on their days off to stand up for their rights, their patients’ rights and those of others who were working long shifts so could not be there, in parliament prime minister Theresa May was slating Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for wanting to spend money on “this, that and the other”. This made the nurses outside furious to think that May was seeing the work they do as so frivolous.

The fight will continue through the RCN until this government stops holding these type of viewpoints and lifts the pay cap on nursing pay. The RCN campaign over the summer has made a real dint in the public conscious over the public sector pay cap and has registered with many MPs, but still the government continues to try to justify keeping the cap.