Pay NHS staff 15%!

Vote socialist on 6 May

photo Clare Doyle

photo Clare Doyle   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

100,000 nurses could quit the NHS, and two-thirds of health workers are mentally exhausted at least once a week. Our health service is in a permanent state of crisis. But the Tory government responds by offering an insulting 1% pay deal to NHS staff. Other frontline public sector workers have had another pay freeze imposed on them.

We support the health workers’ demand for a 15% pay rise; after all they have suffered a 20% pay cut in real terms over the last decade. Decent pay would go some way to address the flood of nurses leaving the NHS, but it also needs to be coupled with huge government investment to ensure a shorter working week, and the resources needed to be able to deliver decent care.

Health workers protest for a 15% pay rise. Photo: Steve Eason/CC

Health workers protest for a 15% pay rise. Photo: Steve Eason/CC   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Nurses, who in increasing numbers need to visit food banks, are forced by the pressure of low pay into agency work which is often slightly better paid. One agency, owned by a Canadian billionaire, has charged the NHS over £2,000 for a 12-hour shift, more than a typical nurse would earn in a month, and no doubt nowhere near what the agency paid its staff.

This kind of profiteering, an inevitable consequence of privatisation, is leading the NHS to ruin unless there is a serious fightback. The pandemic has piled a huge burden onto NHS staff. But as it stands, beyond Covid, it isn’t going to let up. There is now an enormous backlog of care that could not be delivered at the height of the pandemic.

Now is the time to back the health workers’ demand for 15%. The health unions, supported by the wider trade union movement, must call a national demonstration – to prepare for strike action if necessary. To win a pay rise, but also to fight for a fully-resourced NHS democratically controlled by the staff and communities it serves. This means kicking out the privatisers and taking the wealth off the super-rich who have only got richer during the pandemic.

We need a party that fights for a socialist NHS. Labour won’t do that under Starmer, we need a new mass party of the working class. Support the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in the elections on 6 May, to help that party come into being.