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From The Socialist newspaper, 10 March 2021

NHS workers say: We are ready to fight Tory pay insult

NHS workers and supporters protest in London 7 March, photo Max B

NHS workers and supporters protest in London 7 March, photo Max B   (Click to enlarge)

Matt, NHS nurse

I've struggled to comment on the insulting real-term pay cut proposed by the government. I'm not naive, during clap for carers, we said: "Claps don't pay the bills."

The last year has been horrendous for NHS staff - the uncertainty, the PPE crisis, the changing guidance, seeing our colleagues off struggling with Covid. We've tried to get through, with gallows humour and support for each other, but we're exhausted

This isn't just a Covid issue. Our health service has been at breaking point for years.

Overstretched, stressed, working in unsafe conditions, pay freeze after pay freeze, real-term pay cut of 20%, cutting off the NHS student bursary, the list goes on.

With all the public support, the 'thank you NHS' posters, murals, badges on Premier League football shirts, we hoped, just maybe, we might see a reasonable pay increase.

Instead, we've been told there isn't any money. But there were literally tens of billions of pounds for privatised track and trace, crony PPE deals, and for MPs to get a pay rise.

We all deserve more - every single carer, nurse, physio, porter, technician, administrative staff, occupational therapist, and every member of staff in the NHS. We all deserve better, for holding the hand of the lonely patient, for being redeployed not knowing where we'll work, for being an inspiration to each other and everyone in the county.

The time is now for us to act. Our union representatives need to step up.

We need more than stunts, more than ridiculous slow handclaps - I'm looking at you Unison - we need action. We need support from everyone for a pay rise.

Adrian O'Malley, Unison health service executive (personal capacity)

The 1% pay rise for NHS workers proposed by the government is a kick in the teeth. Tory hypocrites, who stood and clapped for 'our NHS heroes' every Thursday last summer, are now saying the country cannot afford more than a paltry 250 a year, or 1% for the 1.3 million NHS staff.

Trade union members are asking: "What are we going to do about it?"

The government 1% pay recommendation has gone to the so-called independent Pay Review Body (PRB), due to announce its decision in May. We should not be appealing for more money from the PRB. It has never gone against government recommendations.

The union leaders must lodge a claim, directly to the government, for the 15% that was demanded by NHS staff in the mass meetings that took place in the summer. And they must prepare for industrial action ballots if the Tories don't deliver.

Unison, the biggest NHS trade union, must take the lead, and lodge similar pay claims across local government, police, schools and universities. The Tories have declared war on public sector workers by announcing yet another pay freeze.

We must respond by taking united action across the public sector, as we did in 2011, when millions of public sector workers struck in defence of our pensions. Only this time we must see it through, and win back what we have lost over years of pay freezes and austerity.

This rotten government can be beaten by the united action of NHS and public sector workers, who have the support of the millions who clapped us every Thursday.

We can, with organisation and solidarity, force the Tories back and win.

Tom Hunt, NHS nurse and Unison Notts healthcare chair (personal capacity)

As an NHS nurse for over 40 years, I have watched the service I love being dismantled piecemeal. The government's 1% pay rise proposal is shocking.

All NHS workers are in shock after the praise heaped on them during the pandemic. But this shock has quickly turned to anger, with staff looking to the unions to take a lead and stand up for them.

Despite the tsunami of job losses on the way, the public have shown through their weekly clapping that they support a significant pay rise for all care workers. The union leaders need to harness the anger in the workplace, knowing that the public will behind workers struggling for a pay rise.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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In The Socialist 10 March 2021:

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NHS pay - 15% now

NHS workers say: We are ready to fight Tory pay insult

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