Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1125/32181

From The Socialist newspaper, 17 March 2021

NHS workers map out strategy to win 15% pay rise

Selling the Socialist on the August 2020 health workers' protests for a 15% pay increase. Photo Sarah SE

Selling the Socialist on the August 2020 health workers' protests for a 15% pay increase. Photo Sarah SE   (Click to enlarge)

"The 1% proposed to the pay review body, alongside the cuts to our funding announced by Rishi Sunak in the budget, is a double whammy that I feel we will struggle to cope with. It feels like yet another chance for this government to show the workforce how little they value us and the NHS as a whole. This isn't just an attack on NHS staff, it is an attack on us all." These were the words of Kirsty Brewerton, a clinical sister and Unison member from Coventry speaking to around 100 workers at the online 'NHS workers fighting back' event on 11 March.

The meeting, hosted by Midlands Shop Stewards Network, and taking place hours before the 'slow handclap', was chaired by Dave Nellist, Socialist Party member and chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. He explained that the brief meeting was arranged at very short notice to give the trade union reps and organisers across the health service the opportunity to discuss a strategy to win a 15% NHS pay rise. All contributors spoke in a personal capacity.

Kirsty outlined the ongoing lies from government ministers about nurses' average pay levels. In fact, in real terms, once tax, pension contributions, student loan repayments and inflation are taken into account, nurses have lost close to 20% of pay in the last ten years.

She also explained how the NHS is often left dangerously understaffed, how staff are suffering from mental health difficulties as a consequence of the trauma experienced during the pandemic, and that the lack of adequate protection has led to health workers tragically losing their lives.

Kirsty finished: "We need to build mass support with effective public campaigning and a union recruitment drive. We need members to engage with their unions to demand a decent coordinated campaign. We need to train and recruit reps in every workplace with a view to establishing workplace action committees, hold lunchtime protests, and organise huge days of action in the build-up to strike action."

Adrian O'Malley, member of the Unison Health Service group executive, described the massive backlash against the government who had clapped the NHS only to offer a real terms pay cut. He said: "It's up to us to build on that anger, and make sure it is expressed in a fight to smash through the pay freeze. Not just for NHS workers but to unite across all public sector workers, and with key workers in the private sector.

"The response of the Unison leadership has been lukewarm at the most. A lot of our members have been asking: What are we going to do about this? We see the RCN announcing the potential for strike action, and that they have got 34 million in a strike fund. Unite the union is threatening to ballot its members. But all our union has said is to have a slow handclap tonight. There has been no mention of the fact that Unison has a 100 million strike fund."

Pay review body

Adrian explained how the deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner had appeared on the news that morning supporting a 2.1% pay offer, and in effect ruling out the 5% in Labour's 2019 election manifesto.

He said: "It's important to look to see what she is saying because her view will be reflected by her political allies within Unison and some of the other health unions. There is a risk that the pay review body suggests 2.1%, and that it will be claimed as some kind of victory by parts of the union leadership.

"We have got to be saying quite clearly now, that we do not accept 2.1%, and we do not accept that our pay will be decided by the pay review body. That we demand national negotiations now, and we want a substantial pay rise, and that if they don't accept this by a certain date, we will be balloting for strike action."

Adrian argued that this process should be replicated across the public sector unions also facing a pay freeze, making the case that the role of the Trades Union Congress should be to coordinate action across the public sector as it did in the 2011 pensions strike.

On that occasion, millions of workers took action together. Ultimately, because of the role played by some of the leadership of the unions at that time, it ended in defeat. That is why it is necessary to elect a fighting, left leadership in the ongoing trade union elections, including in Unison.

Beth Webster, a nurse in Cardiff, and a member of Unison and RCN said: "We don't want a pay rise because we want a reward or a pat on the back. We need a pay rise. Most nurses, ward clerks, cleaners, all NHS workers have to do second jobs and extra shifts to cover the bills. How can we give good care to patients when we have done a 70-hour week and are exhausted?

"We need to put pressure on our union leaderships to prepare for industrial action if necessary. I know lots of people are worried about strike action, and the affect it would have on patients. But in Northern Ireland two years ago NHS workers, including nurses, struck for pay parity. Porters and cleaners in London have struck during the pandemic to improve pay and conditions, so it can be done. We do have emergency cover so patients aren't put at immediate risk.

"Some patients would be likely to have appointments cancelled and so on, but how often does that happen now because of a lack of staff? If we don't take action things will keep getting worse." She added: "We have massive public support, if and when we do take action, we can have things like public meetings to explain strike action to the public. Everyone trusts health workers more than the media and politicians.

"All workers are under attack, losing their jobs and having their wages cut. If NHS workers can fight and win, that will embolden others and make their fight easier. The only way we can win is if we are united inside the NHS, and outside with other workers."

This sentiment was reflected in further contributions from health workers. Len Hockey, secretary of Unite Barts health branch and hospital porter, reminded us that somewhere near 85,000 health workers took part in protests during the summer, in many cases without the support of their unions. He called for "a national demonstration, socially distanced and organised safely, as only health workers know how to do, is the way to go as a prelude to coordinated national strike action."

'Social partnership'

Roger Davey, chair of Wiltshire and Avon health Unison, spoke about the necessity to prepare ahead of a strike ballot. He outlined how for many years the unions' leadership have pushed the idea of social partnership, the false idea that NHS bosses, the government and NHS staff have the same interests. It is necessary to apply pressure on the union leadership to break with this approach in order to be able to reach the anti-democratic 50% turnout threshold in a strike ballot.

The pandemic has deepened all of the pre-existing stresses on the NHS, a consequence of decades of under-funding and privatisation. It was acknowledged that the struggle for an NHS pay rise needs to be tied to campaigning for a fully funded, fully public NHS. Tom Hunt, chair of Notts healthcare Unison, outlined the successful campaign to save Chatsworth Ward in Mansfield which mobilised workers, patients and the wider public to secure victory.

All speakers described a mood of bitter anger in the workplace and expressed a determination to translate this into an organised struggle for a 15% pay rise and to transform the NHS for the future.

The meeting agreed to produce a model motion (below) for distribution to supporters of the National Shop Stewards Network.


Model trade union motion

This union branch/trades council condemns the Tory government's announcement that NHS workers will receive a pay rise of only 1%.

This union branch/trades council believes:

This union branch/trades council further believes that:

Donate to the Socialist Party

Finance appeal

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.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation

 

Your message: 

 


In The Socialist 17 March 2021:


End violence against women

Violence against women - we will not be silenced


NHS

Rich pickings for private companies - peanuts for health workers

NHS workers map out strategy to win 15% pay rise


Review

Judas and the Black Messiah - taste of Fred Hampton's politics, with lessons for fighting oppression today


Media

Can the capitalist media prevent socialist change?


Workplace news

British Gas strike at crucial stage

Electricians protest against deskilling and lower wages

Goodlord workers continue strike against 'fire and rehire'

Thousands of BT workers to ballot for strike action

Government's bus plans fall short of making up for the cuts

Reinstate Moe - stop trade union-busting at Abellio!

PCS members at Swansea DVLA to strike for safety


Elections

Council funding crisis - We need a workers' programme to restore the stolen millions

We need a fighting strategy to win funding from the government - why I'm standing for TUSC

Standing for TUSC in Worcester

Help fund the Socialist Party's election campaign as part of TUSC


Campaigns news

Build for the Socialist Students day of action on 21 April

I couldn't just stand and watch! - Why I joined the Socialist Party

Socialist Party LGBTQ+ members meeting

Selling the Socialist


International news

Myanmar: workers brave brutal military crackdown


 

Home   |   The Socialist 17 March 2021   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

NHS:

trianglePay NHS staff 15%

triangleNHS pay: 15% now!

triangleCumberland hospital workers fight for stolen pay

triangleNHS pay: 15% now

triangleHaringey: Hands off our GP practices

Pay:

triangleThe Socialist Inbox

triangleBristol Water walkout

triangleMarley Tiles workers strike against bullying bosses

triangleElect a socialist leadership to fight for national action and a united campaign

Workers:

triangleCouncillors have a choice - don't vote for cuts

triangleSparks' protest in Cardiff; each week the protest has grown. Sparks are protesting nationally against the role of construction electricians being deskilled. Photo by Rachel Barwell

triangleLow-paid workers shouldn't pay for Covid crisis

Health:

triangleNo start for life

triangleTrade union fighters rally to support victimised workers

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

7/4/21

London

London: #BuhariMustGo protests are back

7/4/21

Young people

The system is broken... youth unite and fight back

7/4/21

Protest

Defiance continues against anti-protest bill

7/4/21

Fighting Fund

Fighting Fund: An amazing 39,948 raised

7/4/21

Bullying

Marley Tiles workers strike against bullying bosses

7/4/21

British Gas

New British Gas deadline and strike dates

7/4/21

Bristol

Bristol Water walkout

6/4/21

Liverpool

Right-wing Labour and Tory commissioners out!

31/3/21

Trade union

Trade union fighters rally to support victimised workers

31/3/21

Commune

Online rally - 150 years since the Paris Commune

31/3/21

British Gas

British Gas workers strike ahead of 'fire and rehire' deadline

31/3/21

BT

BT Openreach engineers step up the pressure with five-day strike action

31/3/21

Equal pay

Asda equal pay ruling victory - now fight for equal pay for all

31/3/21

Pay

SPS Technologies workers strike against potential pay loss of 3,000 a year

31/3/21

Government

'Chingford skinhead' spills the beans over government surveillance of union activists

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 078 0983 9793

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


April 2021

March 2021

February 2021

January 2021

2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999