A report from the picket lines in Sunderland as NHS workers strike against a four-year long public sector pay freeze
NHS staff in England went on strike for four hours this morning demanding that the government award them a pay rise. This is the second time NHS workers have walked out in the last two months in their efforts to smash the four-year long public sector pay freeze.
Picket lines outside hospitals and ambulance stations were colourful and well attended, seeing a diverse array of NHS trade unions working together to grab the attention of government, colleagues, media and members of the public alike (check out #NHSpay on twitter).
“NHS / Not for Sale” and “We're worth / 1 percent” were two popular chants on the picket line outside Sunderland Royal Hospital which saw a gathering of approximately 150 staff members including porters, midwives, administration staff, radiographers, maintenance-workers, nurses and supportive members of the public.
A common theme noted by NHS picket lines around the country is the high level of public support for the strike - when passing motorists toot their horns and individuals share picket line photographs on Facebook it's clear that they see the NHS workers as being on their side in the fight to save our National Health Service from the Tory government and it's allies; Care UK, Virgin Care and other profit-grabbing private healthcare companies.
Cutting NHS workers pay in real terms whilst increasing their workload is one way in which the Coalition government is attempting to run the NHS into the ground. Stress and poor morale are increasingly running rife and poorer patient care is the result. If the NHS and its workforce continue to be over-worked and underpaid it will only be a matter of time before another Mid-Staffs esque scandal happens.
Due to £20bn worth of NHS cuts, NHS staff have been increasingly over-worked and had their pay frozen since 2010. So bad is the situation that the independent NHS Pay Review Body recommended that the government award all NHS staff a consolidated 1% pay rise, which the government has chosen to ignore whilst simultaneously awarding MPs an 11% pay rise and lobbying the EU heavily to remove the cap on bankers bonuses.
On Tuesday the industrial action continues as members of the 9 NHS unions involved in the dispute will engage in 6 day's worth of 'action short of strike' which will see them take their breaks on time and refuse to do any unpaid overtime.
Many of these hospital staff will then take to the streets next week to express their anger at the Tory's attempts to smash the NHS by participating in the 'Sack George Osbourne' Budget Day protests being organised by People's Assembly groups around the country on the 2nd and 3rd of December.