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Eyes of the NHS on the Tory Budget

Chancellor told to stop denying workers the pay rise they deserve

HEALTH workers have united with one voice to tell Chancellor Rishi Sunak: “Give us a pay rise!” in his Budget tomorrow.

After the most momentous and stressful year in the history of the NHS, front-line staff who have risked their lives treating hundreds of thousands of coronavirus victims say it is time for their work and sacrifice to be recognised with a fair wage increase.

Unite said today that real-terms pay has fallen by 19 per cent since the Tories came to power in 2010, while MPs’ pay has increased in value by 2 per cent. The union is calling for a rise of 15 per cent, or £3,000, while public-sector union Unison wants an increase of at least £2,000.

The 123,000 people to date who have died from coronavirus include at least 230 nurses, doctors, porters, cleaners, paramedics and other NHS staff. Thousands of others have suffered exhaustion and mental illness as hospitals were inundated with coronavirus patients.

More than 60,000 NHS workers have signed a letter to the Chancellor calling for funding in tomorrow’s Budget for a pay increase. Many shared their personal testimonies.

A healthcare worker at Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board in Wales said: “I have worked 12-hour shifts wrapped in plastic, with masks and visors on, and not been able to go on break because my patients have been so unwell and I’ve had no-one to cover me … Healthcare workers are burnt out, and it’s heartbreaking to see my colleagues this way. All the while it comes to the end of the month and the pay never reflects the sacrifice you feel you’ve given to your job.”

A hospital support assistant from Goole in East Yorkshire, whose ward is “in the throes of our fourth outbreak,” said: “I recently returned to work [after] contracting Covid and becoming ill with pneumonia. I’m very nervous about working with Covid patients yet again … I believe in my heart that £9.02 an hour is not enough for what we continue to deal with daily. We are potentially putting our own and our families’ lives at risk.

“I’m not asking for the world. I’m asking for my wage to match my job and what I do within my role.”

An occupational therapist from Leeds said: “It has been extremely difficult and demanding.

“Increased mental-health problems will be one of the most impacting problems for the UK following this pandemic. 

“It will also be severely felt by staff in the NHS, who will be unwell due to the stress placed on them.”

A mental-health service manager in north-west England reported her team being under immense pressure as they “worked tirelessly to support the community throughout the pandemic.”

“The physical and mental wellbeing of staff has been severely impacted by the stress and pressure,” she said.

She called on the Chancellor to “fund a proper pay rise to show that NHS workers have been recognised and valued.”

Health service unions including Unite, GMB and Unison are together in their call for better pay for their members in the NHS.

Unison Cymru lead officer for health Paul Summers said: “Health workers have been battling the pandemic for a year. That’s a year of incredibly long-hours, heightened anxiety around the safety of family and friends and fears about catching the virus, all while carrying out demanding roles and dealing with the trauma of many thousands of deaths. They’re giving their all to keep us safe. 

“Rishi Sunak must do the right thing and back up words of praise with concrete actions by funding a pay rise of at least £2,000 for all NHS staff.”

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “The NHS health unions — as well as the public — are united in their strong desire to see health workers being rewarded for the unstinting and unselfish care they have provided to patients during the year-long pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than an estimated 620 health and social-care workers.”

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