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THOUSANDS of health workers will mobilise alongside NHS campaigners today to express their anger over a political betrayal of the heroic efforts and sacrifices which were made during the coronavirus pandemic.
Protests will take place in dozens of cities, towns and smaller communities across Britain.
Of 76 events planned in support of the NHS today about 30 will take place online via computer links, but 40 will be on the streets at marches, rallies and demonstrations.
The protests are backed by 13 trade unions with members in the NHS and other organisations, such as Keep Our NHS Public (KONP)
Chancellor Rishi Sunak denied health staff a pay rise when he recently announced small increases for other public sector workers, with the excuse that NHS staff have a three-year contract which does not expire until April 2021.
NHS staff want a 15 per cent wage increase to begin making up for a decade of Tory austerity and pay freezes.
They are asking for “pay justice” and formal recognition of their hard work, particularly in response to the COVID pandemic.
KONP co-chair Dr Tony O’Sullivan said: “This shameful government has given hundreds of millions of pounds to their friends to fund secretive and abysmally failing Covid contracts, overseen the disaster of 65,000 deaths and with utter hypocrisy, clapped the NHS it has neglected for its work during this pandemic.
“Now it abuses the goodwill and commitment of our nurses and other NHS staff by refusing them any pay award.
“The government has rejected an opportunity for a meaningful thankyou that could have addressed the 20 per cent cut in pay inflicted since 2010 — small wonder then that there are now 44,000 nurse vacancies.”
Junior doctor Tom Gardiner said: “The public has shown health and social care workers huge amounts of support throughout the pandemic.
“For a while, the government seemed to be attuned to this public mood, encouraging applause and celebrating the birthday of the NHS. But it’s clear we’re now seeing that gratitude being washed away.”
Many nurses have experienced real-term pay cuts for years, followed by a pandemic in which they put their lives on the line while working “unimaginably long shifts dressed head to toe in protective equipment,” Mr Gardiner said.
He added: “This is a massive kick in the teeth. Nurses are dismayed, and I suspect many members of the general public are too.”
Unite national officer for health Jackie Williams said: “Poor rates of pay have contributed to the estimated 100,000 vacancies in the NHS, [ensuring a] ‘recruitment and retention’ crisis.
“Unite is supporting our members wishing to turn out on Saturday.”
A Unison spokesperson said: "NHS staff deserve an early and a significant pay rise this year. The public wants it to happen.
“Ministers must now get on board and commit to making this popular wages boost a reality.”
Scottish Labour health and social care spokesperson Monica Lennon called for the public to join the protests in the country.
“Clapping for healthcare workers doesn’t pay their bills,” she said. “Scotland must show our NHS staff the same commitment they have shown our country in its hour of need.”
Yorkshire and the Humber TUC secretary Bill Adams said: “This nasty government can't be allowed to treat our frontline workers unfairly anymore.
“They cannot run our NHS on business lines, privatising by the back door at every turn. It's time to pay up for all our NHS workers.”
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