Health workers submitted an 800,000-strong petition for an NHS pay rise to Downing Street Photo: Paul Mattsson

Health workers submitted an 800,000-strong petition for an NHS pay rise to Downing Street Photo: Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Glynn Doherty, union organiser in social care

As The Socialist goes to press, the Tories are in open warfare over Boris Johnson’s plans on funding social care and the NHS in England.

In the 2019 Tory manifesto, Johnson said: “I guarantee extra funding for the NHS, with 50,000 more nurses. We will not raise the rate of income tax, VAT or National Insurance”.

Nearly two years on and they’re still almost 40,000 short of that growth promise, and the second appears in grave danger. Vacancies within social care are predicted to rocket to 170,000 – an increase of over 40% – by the year end, vastly increased by the inept law change on vaccinations. With press reports of the vaccinations law being extended into the NHS, the small growth in nurses’ numbers could be halted and start to decline dramatically.

An increase in NI contributions would be significantly weighted against the youngest and lowest paid in the workforce, and many Tory MPs are fearful it would lead to an enormous working-class backlash against not only them, but their capitalist system.

At last, Labour’s Keir Starmer has voiced his party’s opposition, just over a month after shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth answered a question on TV about the government introducing a new tax to fund social care with “Why would we oppose that?”

For a worker on average earnings of £30k a year, a 1.25% increase in National Insurance would cost them £255 annually. This would equate to a huge chunk of the 3% pay rise for NHS workers. Most social care workers rely on the annual minimum wage uprating to get a pay increase. Thousands more care workers will leave the profession to go and work in Amazon warehouses. Joined-up thinking is not a strongpoint of this government!

Social care needs huge investment so where should the money come from? The top three owners of care homes in the UK are private equity companies, solely operating to accumulate profit. Social care should not only be planned as part of a national set-up with the NHS but it should be nationalised.

If tax or NI increases for ordinary workers are proposed by Johnson, the TUC should be calling for united trade union opposition through action, to add to its words of opposition. If the TUC fails to act, the left – particularly in Unite and Unison, the two largest health and care unions – should be meeting jointly to map a way forward.