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NHS workers who have delivered for this country during Covid-19 have found themselves well and truly betrayed on pay.
Following the announcement that a pitiful 3 per cent pay offer will be imposed for some NHS workers, it is clear that this government is continuing to put a wrecking ball to the NHS.
Some might argue that 3 per cent is generous in this period of rising unemployment and the imposition of public-sector pay freezes. However, with NHS pensions contributions due to rise and inflation running out of control, 3 per cent represents a blatant attempt to further drive down pay in the NHS.
Already NHS workers have lost more than 15 per cent of their pay following years of pay restraint and this has led to a dangerous recruitment crisis that is due to accelerate in the coming period.
It is also important to note that the programme of never-ending pay restraint in the public sector is deliberate, with the clear intention of devaluing jobs across the NHS and the public sector, leading to demoralisation of the workforce.
This is why it’s so important for all NHS and pubic-sector workers to recognise and reject the divide-and-rule methods deployed by the Tories as one group of workers gets deliberately pitted against another over pay.
Those who say that rejecting 3 per cent is greedy are happy to ignore the fact that private companies cashed in to the tune of billions during the course of the pandemic.
If there is money for this government to pour billions into the private sector, there is money for a fully funded 15 per cent pay rise for NHS staff.
The “cash for failure” culture is alive and well as disgraced companies like Carillion were given a free hand to rake in huge profits from Covid-19 testing.
Yes, there is greed in society, but it’s not among the NHS workers who have faced down Covid-19 and saved thousands of lives while unprotected from the virus themselves.
This government is asking nurses and others on the front lines battling against the biggest crisis since the World War II to accept a pay award that will plunge them further into poverty.
What an appalling way to treat a group of people who are actually proving their worth when those running the private companies profited so much but failed us so badly.
To add insult to injury, there is no detail about the 3 per cent pay offer and no-one knows if the 3 per cent is a one-year or a three-year deal.
Many outsourced NHS workers or those insourced but not on NHS contracts won’t even get the 3 per cent as they will be told their pay rise is pegged to the minimum/living wage.
These invisible NHS workers also kept our hospitals running during the pandemic, but privatisation means that hundreds of thousands of them will get absolutely nothing from this pay offer.
The age-old arguments will continue during the battle for pay justice in the NHS.
They will tell us it’s a choice between NHS jobs or pay — but we know from years of experience that the front line of the NHS has been cut and privatised into a state of collapse while pay has been driven into the ground.
While professional roles, ethics and codes of conduct remain in place — and they won’t be in place for much longer if the Tories have their way — it is the professional duty of every clinical worker to stand up for the services they work in and for their patients.
This means getting active in trade unions and using all means necessary up to and including strike action to stop the dangerous decline of NHS care.
The denial that sits right alongside shrinking from the prospect of strike action in the NHS is no longer a viable option for those who genuinely care about patients.
Those who are intent on getting into the higher tiers of NHS management will always fiercely oppose any action against the deadly direction of travel forced on the NHS by the diet of cuts and privatisation that is now at a very advanced stage.
The NHS is slowly collapsing because so many experienced staff are leaving the service and this will only be noticed by patients when they need fast access to treatment to alleviate pain, suffering, discomfort and distress.
The struggle for 15 per cent is not about glorifying an archaic institution — it’s about keeping the skilled, experienced NHS staff right where patients and the public need them to be.
GMB Southern Region is now escalating the struggle for pay justice in the NHS as we launch our fight for 15 campaign #FightForFifteen.
We already have a clear national mandate from our elected NHS reps to recommend rejection of the 3 per cent when we open our ballot.
In the meantime we are organising a series of hospital protests for Tuesday August 17 and calling on all of our reps and activists to devote time to building for these protests inside their own hospitals and team bases.
We will encourage GMB reps and members to join NHS campaigners in their communities because the NHS belongs to all of us.
GMB will stand firmly with our members, with patients and the public because rejecting 3 per cent and fighting for 15 has become key to defending free healthcare for all.
Helen O’Connor is the GMB NHS union organiser for the Southern Region — @HelenOConnorNHS.
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