“Criminally let down” NHS workers to march on Downing Street over pay

© Chris Marchant / CC BY 2.0

NHS workers who say they have been “criminally let down” by the government will march on Downing Street to protest the decision to put off a pay rise for health service employees until after April 2021.

The protest is set to take place on Wednesday at 5pm following the announcement of a pay bump of up to 3.1% that will only apply to certain public sector employees and not all Covid frontline workers.

The Chancellor said that the government was recognising the “vital contribution” of the workers in the pandemic – but failed to include nurses, care workers, junior doctors, hospital porters, cleaners and others.

Trade union Unite’s branch at Guy’s and St Thomas Hospital in London has partnered with the Keep Our NHS Public campaign and Nurses United, as part of a nationwide demand for an immediate pay rise.

Unite branch secretary and nurse Mark Boothroyd said: “NHS workers have been criminally let down by this government. Despite all our sacrifices, the government has not included nurses in the pay deal for public sector workers.

“We have worked masses of overtime, isolated from our families, and lost over 540 of our colleagues to Covid-19. We are not valued. NHS workers deserve a pay rise after a decade of austerity for the 20% pay cut since 2010, and to address the 40,000 vacancies across the NHS that puts our patients at risk.”

A recent survey by the Royal College of Nursing reported that 36% of its respondents are considering leaving the profession, with 61% describing pay as the primary factor. There are currently around 40,000 nurse vacancies in England.

Commenting on the march, nurse and member of Keep Our NHS Public Iain Wilson said: “I’m tired of this government letting us down. They lie about privatising our jobs, about recruiting 50,000 more nurses and about personal protective equipment during the pandemic.”

NHS workers have experienced around a 20% real-terms pay cut since 2010, with a band five nurse now £6,000 worse off than a decade ago, due to a failure to keep pace with the rate of inflation.

Wilson added: “Things can’t improve in the NHS without more staff to care for our aging population, and we won’t have more staff until existing staff are trusted and valued, so that more people want to join us. After everything we’ve done, we deserve better, and a pay rise should be the start.”

The pay increase announced last week effects some doctors, police, teachers and others. Labour has welcomed the boost to pay as “good news”, but warned that it will not make up for a decade of pay freezes and cuts imposed under austerity.

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