NHS strike solidarity march, London NHS strike solidarity march, London. Photo: Lewis Baker

Dominic Sorrell reports on the RCN’s mass picket lines and London demonstration supporting striking nurses

With the Tories in no mood to negotiate meaningful pay rises, the Royal College of Nursing were back on picket lines for two days this week in a fight not only for pay and working conditions, but also for the very survival of the NHS.

On Wednesday, health campaigners organised a demonstration in solidarity with the strikers in London. The atmosphere was positive and determined and you could feel a real sense of working-class confidence pulsing its way through the ranks of the rally. In solidarity with the nurses, workers from RMT, Aslef, UCU and many other unions marched alongside striking RCN nurses with banners proudly raised.

After a mass picket line at UCLH, the procession made its way towards Downing Street, plenty of honks and cheers of support could be heard from the public. Very clearly the momentum is behind the workers in this dispute, and the government is looking increasingly out of touch with reality.

Outside the gates of Number 10, the People’s Assembly’s Lindsey German gave an impassioned speech, highlighting the severity of the current class war and the need for collaboration amongst the unions for maximum resistance on 1 February and beyond.

Michael Rosen, sporting the bright pink cap of the UCU, recounted the moving story of his induced coma, and the round-the-clock care and compassion he received. At every hour, nurses checked vitals, kept him company and recorded everything in a patient diary. They even sang him happy birthday. Just one story of thousands that show how the NHS is there for us at our darkest moments.

Michael Rosen addressing the rally outside Downing Street. Photo: Shabbir Lakha

Speeches by health workers, representatives of other unions and campaigns, and MPs were interspersed with chants of “Whose NHS? Our NHS!” Richard Burgon MP called for the biggest possible national demonstration to defend our health service, which has now been called by the SOS NHS coalition on 11 March.

In Lincoln, Pat Sikorski reports that there was solid support for striking nurses at their picket line outside the General Hospital. On Wednesday evening a panel of strike leaders from RMT, UCU, GMB, RCN, Unison and CWU addressed a Lincoln Trades Council meeting attended by almost 50 activists to organise solidarity with all upcoming regional and national strike days.

Lincoln General Hospital RCN picket line. Photo: Pat Sikorski

As well as supporting the strikes, the meeting discussed the need to challenge and break the new and existing anti-trade union legislation along with the threat to the right to protest and demonstrate. One speaker summed it up saying that his father was a miner jailed during the 1984 strike after which the state thought the unions were finished but they’re far from finished – they are fighting back led by a new generation of young militants.

Wednesday’s rally in London and the huge show of support at picket lines across the country were a clear sign to the government: you won’t take our NHS without a fight!

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