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THOUSANDS of health service staff and their supporters will take to the streets nationwide on Saturday calling for NHS workers to get a 15 per cent pay rise.
From Derby to Dorset, Bristol to Brighton and Newcastle to Norwich, nurses and other health workers will march in support of a pay increase which has been repeatedly denied them by the government.
The government excluded NHS staff from a public service pay increase last month, using the excuse that their existing pay agreement does not expire until April next year.
The decision followed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s much publicised weekly round of applause on the steps of 10 Downing Street for front-line workers coping with the coronavirus pandemic, known as the “clap for carers” event.
Saturday’s demonstrations are being supported by trade unions and the People’s Assembly.
Unions including Unite are calling for a pay rise of 15 per cent or £3,000 — whichever is the greater — for NHS staff.
The general union, which has 100,000 members in the health service, also insists that pay talks between the government, the NHS and health trade unions should start “without delay.”
Unite is lodging the claim formally with the government, saying that it will be “an important step in the journey to restore the pay that NHS workers have lost in the decade of austerity since 2010.”
A union representative told the Morning Star that the continuing seven-month battle against coronavirus had heightened the public’s appreciation of NHS staff.
The claim also sends a warning to NHS privateers and subsidiaries which have taken workers out of the health service, employing them on inferior pay, terms and conditions compared to their NHS counterparts.
Unite is telling privateers to “put the interests of their workers before the dividends of shareholders.”
National officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “Hundreds of health and social care staff have lost their lives in the continuing battle against Covid-19, which has heightened the deep appreciation that the public has for the NHS and those who work in it.
“This public esteem for NHS workers should be reflected by the government, which needs to respond by opening pay discussions, following our claim and those of our sister unions with no further procrastination or stalling tactics.
“Our members, living in the real world, can’t survive on warm words of praise by ministers and the past weeks of Thursday evening clapping as the bills flood in.”
Mr Jarrett-Thorpe said that an early, well-deserved and generous pay rise was needed to repair the damage of the last lost decade when pay in real terms was eroded by an estimated 20 per cent for many long-serving staff.
He said: “Doctors, nurses and health workers, including student nurses and those who came out of retirement, stepped up to the plate big-time when the lockdown was imposed in March and the NHS was under severe pressure — now is the time for the government to recognise this major national contribution.
“Many, including prime minister Boris Johnson, owe their lives to the NHS — and now is the time to acknowledge that 24/7 commitment with a decent pay rise that reflects the sentiments of a grateful and relieved country.”
Protests will take place in Aberdeen, Brighton, Bristol, Coventry, Derby, Manchester, Bournemouth, London, Norwich, Sheffield, Southend and West Suffolk.
Some protests have been postponed due to renewed coronavirus restrictions including Cardiff, Chesterfield, Leeds, Liverpool, Merthyr Tydfil, Newcastle, Nottingham, Plymouth, Southampton and Swansea.
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