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From The Socialist newspaper, 17 March 2021

Rich pickings for private companies - peanuts for health workers

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)

NHS radiographer

The problem with soundbites is that people have a habit of remembering them. Like Boris Johnson promising us a 'world beating' test, track and trace system. 22 billion pounds later and we are told by the Public Accounts Committee that there is no evidence that the scheme has actually reduced the spread of coronavirus infections!

This staggering failure you might imagine would have led to sackings and a rethink, but no. Instead, Sunak's budget handed another 15 billion to Tory pal and ex-telecoms boss Dido Harding, who runs the scheme.

People may wonder what this mega-expensive white elephant is for. That's easy to explain. Most of the work is contracted to private consultants, who don't have to have any experience and get paid up to 6,624 a day. In this way, lots of rich people get even richer, just like the killing they made from selling inadequate PPE to the NHS.

So, if the Tories reward failure, how will they reward the incredible achievements of health workers, who, despite resources being cut to the bone for years, have pulled off herculean efforts to manage the pandemic?

As we start to come out of this worst wave of infections, with record numbers catching coronavirus, being hospitalised and some sadly dying, we are told by the chancellor 'there's no money in the budget for you lot'.

Cuts to NHS services over decades have meant, among other things, that we faced the pandemic with a fraction of the intensive care beds of other European countries and record staff shortages.

The establishment press makes much of the 'heroism' of NHS staff, but an under-resourced and understaffed NHS has taken a heavy toll on health workers.

A recent NHS staff survey for England found a third of health workers were thinking of leaving, and 44% reported feeling unwell from work-related stress.

Also, part of the report contains shocking figures about the treatment of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff - who account for 21% of the workforce. Despite NHS chiefs paying lip service to issue of race discrimination - highlighted by last year's Black Lives Matter protests - nurses from BAME backgrounds reported the highest levels of discrimination from managers for five years. This may well be a contributing factor to the 63% of Covid-19 deaths coming from this group of staff.

The other equally hollow soundbite we won't forget is the Tories saying they'd give the NHS whatever resources we needed.

Of course, the Johnson government has found huge sums of money to prop up big business in its budget. Therefore, the idea that there is 'only so much money available' for NHS services and paying us a decent wage is nonsense.

If health workers make a stand for a 15% pay rise and win, it will encourage other workers to get organised and fight for a better deal. If we back down now it will be a green light to the government to speed up privatisation and destroy the NHS.

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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.
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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?


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Goodlord workers continue strike against 'fire and rehire'

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Related links:

NHS:

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triangleNHS pay: 15% now!

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Budget:

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