Unite NHS protest, St Barts Hospital Unite NHS protest, St Barts Hospital. Photo: Gareth Murphy

Unite members working in hospitals took a stand against the effective pay cut they are facing, Carole Vincent and Lucy Nichols report

On Wednesday, at hospitals around the country, NHS staff continued their fight to get recognised for the work they do as part of Unite’s National Day of Action to mobilise their members working in hospitals

The government offered a measly 1%, in effect a pay cut, then increased it to 3%, both insulting to our NHS staff.

Over the past ten years of Tory austerity nurses and other NHS staff have lost 20% in pay through it being frozen and not rising with inflation.

Many NHS staff had accepted this situation to a degree because of the government telling us all to ‘tighten our belts’. But how tight do belts have to be tightened before those wearing them suffocate?

The NHS is our flagship of healthcare,  the government fails to realise how dear it is to the British people despite the PM’s life being saved by NHS staff. Unite is calling for fair pay for NHS and ancillary workers and is demanding an end to the outsourcing of vital roles to companies such as Serco.

I was at the Barts NHS Trust Hospitals in East London today and protests also took place at The Royal London, St Bartholemews and Whipps Cross.

At each hospital, Unite the Union members supported hospital staff in calling for a 15% pay rise, which is still 5% less than they’ve effectively lost!

The atmosphere was buoyant and vibrant with a Bob Marley playlist outside St Barts where the public showed full support for the 15% rise in pay. 

One patient joined the protest and told Gareth Murphy, (a Unite Community member) he’d been a Unite member for 35 years and was glad to join the protest for a 15% pay rise.

I spoke to another patient, who had been treated by staff at St Bartholemews over a few years. He said they were marvellous and deserved to be paid more and treated better by the government.

At Whipps Cross around 30 Unite members were joined by Unite the community, Waltham Forest Trades Council and DPAC outside Whipp’s Cross Hospital in Waltham Forest.

These protesting workers were met with immense enthusiasm from passers-by, and you could barely hear the speeches over the almost-constant beeping of car, bus, and Ambulance horns.

The Unite representative for ancillary workers at Whipp’s Cross argued ‘the pay offers that have been made to health workers have been nothing short of absolutely cynical and we’re not going to roll over and allow that to go through.’

The protest also heard from Waltham Forest Trades Council, as their delegate asserted that they ‘wholeheartedly support Unite the Union and the health service in their campaign against cuts… 1% is nothing and not worth thinking about, we support the 15% pay rise.’

The demonstration also heard from a variety of workers and activists bringing solidarity. After speeches, the workers and trade unionists dispersed, but plan to continue to campaign for fair pay through further protests and potential industrial action.

The fight goes on and hopefully the campaign will continue to grow and force the government to take serious note that NHS staff won’t give up and won’t be silenced.

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