Thousands of nurses in England went on strike for a second time yesterday , with picket lines reported to be large and lively and receiving massive public support. The nurses, who are members of the RCN union, are fighting for a larger pay rise than the £1,400 a year below inflation payment that was imposed on them by the government last year. The strikes are part of an effort to defend the NHS, which is currently facing a daily struggle. Activists from other unions such as NEU, Unite, RMT and UCU also came to show their support for the striking nurses.
Our video shows a lively picket braving freezing weather at UCU in London.
Union leaders should co-ordinate strike action and organise big demonstrations against the return of austerity and under inflation pay rises (wage cuts) say Solidarity union.
Price rises surged again in September. New official statistics released on Wednesday showed the RPI inflation rate had bit 12.6 percent, a rise of 0.3 percent.
The main driver was higher food prices, which went up by almost 15 percent. The figure means that if wages “rise” by, say, 4 percent, that is actually a cut of 8.6 percent.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the government’s preferred CPI measure of inflation rose 0.5 percent in the month compared with August to 10.1 percent.
Darren Morgan, ONS director of economic statistics, said, “After last month’s small fall, headline inflation returned to its high seen earlier in the summer. The rise was driven by further increases across food, which saw its largest annual rise in over 40 years.”
Price rises have not yet peaked, despite the energy price guarantee limiting gas and electricity bills this winter. The ONS said electricity prices rose by 54 percent and gas prices almost doubled in the year to September.
The September figure is also the number normally used for the uprating of benefits, including the state pension. Last Tuesday, new chancellor Jeremy Hunt could not guarantee the government would stick to its “triple lock” commitment on pensions. That would increase them by earnings, prices or 2.5 per cent—whichever is highest.
Cutting pensions and benefits as inflation keeps rising means an assault on millions of ordinary people. It will mean deep poverty, malnutrition, illness and death.
Patrick Harrington, general secretary of Solidarity said:“All unions must fight for wage increases that at least match inflation. Workers are already being hit hard. We must also oppose any attempt to cut public services. Only co-ordinated strikes and street demonstrations will help us to win. Let’s start with the small things we can do to back the strikers.”
Small steps you can take to support the strikers
Go to your local picket line
Display a poster in your window backing the strikers
Health secretary Therese Coffey said recently that NHS workers will not get a higher pay offer than the present one of 3 percent. So for all the praise during the most deadly phase of the pandemic, health workers are now being told to take a pay cut of almost 10 percent.
It’s another reason to vote for strikes in the ballots taking place now. Sharon Graham, leader of the Unite union, said, “With RPI now up to 12.6 percent, workers and communities must not pay for a crisis they did not create. We will not stand by and watch the country take a pay cut while corporations profit and the government pours petrol on the fire.
”“Vote yes to save the NHS!” is the Unison union’s slogan as it launches a massive strike ballot over pay. Some 320,000 health workers in England and Wales are set to receive ballot papers in the coming days. It comes after the government imposed a rise of just 4 percent—less than a third of the rate of inflation. Unison is joining the nurses’ RCN, midwives’ RCM, Unite, GMB and physiotherapists’ unions in asking its members to hit back with strikes. It now looks likely that there will be action by at least some groups of NHS workers in December or early next year.
The Unison ballot is “disaggregated”, meaning the vote will take place on a trust by trust basis. Organisers hope this will allow workers in parts of the NHS where union organisation is strong to strike, even if weaker areas fail to meet the Tories’ 50 percent turnout threshold. Pat Harrington, general secretary of Solidarity, commented: “Our brothers and sisters in other unions will need to mount an enormous campaign to get the vote out. We have a number of members in the NHS and we will be discussing with them as to how best we can support any strikes and picket lines.”
Picture credit: KollectivFuture 2022. All rights reserved.
Around 200 clinical support workers and healthcare assistants at Salford Royal Hospital in Greater Manchester recently launched a collective grievance over their pay. The workers are demanding to be re-graded to NHS band 3 and backpaid to April 2018. They argue that they are doing the same job as their counterparts who are already on band 3, and so should be paid the same.
The workers handed their complaint to NHS trust bosses at the Salford Royal Hospital, and were joined online by many others at hospitals in Oldham, Rochdale and Fairfield. The trust has said that it is “disappointed” that the workers have taken this action, but that it is committed to “engaging positively” with them. A spokesman for the trust said that a final decision on the matter will be made by the end of October.
The workers’ demand for equal pay is just one example of the increasing pressure that NHS staff are under. In recent years, there have been reports of record levels of staff sickness, burnout and stress. Many staff are working excessive hours just to keep up with demand. This situation is only likely to get worse as the NHS faces further funding cuts in the years ahead.
Sandra, a band 2 clinical support worker at Salford, was furious with the trust. “In May, I had to sell my car as I could no longer afford it,” she told bosses. “I now cycle to work. I wake up at 4.20am, I leave my home at 5am and cycle 11.79 miles to work.
“During my shift I will get phone calls asking me to do things like ECGs and taking bloods. I don’t say, ‘No, I’m sorry I don’t get paid enough”. I don’t say, ‘No, I’m sorry I’m not a band 3”, I say “Yes of course I will. What bloods do you need?”
“I leave work at 7pm. I get changed and cycle the 11.79 miles home again. I usually get home around 8.30pm. I then get up the next day at 4.20am to do it all again—because I don’t get paid enough for the job I do.”
Unison union reps then handed over 900 staff signatures demanding change and asked NHS trust boss Owen Williams also to sign it. “Colleagues want me to sign something. I don’t feel I need to sign a pledge,” he replied.
Unison members then started chanting, “Sign it! Sign it! Sign it!” Williams signed the pledge.
At the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust workers are also demanding fair banding and fair pay.
One worker told us that specialist decontamination staff have sent a group petition calling on managers to give them the appropriate band and pay back money for the money they have lost from being wrongly banded. The worker said: “It is essential that employees are paid the correct rate for their position, as this not only provides a sense of fairness and justice in the workplace, but also helps to motivate and encourage staff. That is why it is so important that management listen to our concerns and address the issue of our pay rates. We simply want to be paid at the right rate for the job we do, and if we are unable to persuade management to see our point of view, we may have no choice but to escalate the matter. We hope that it does not come to this, and that management will take our concerns seriously and provide us with the fair compensation we deserve.”