Nurses protesting in Parliament Square. Photo: Danielle Tiplady Nurses protesting in Parliament Square. Photo: Danielle Tiplady

Thousands of nurses protested outside Parliament against the 1% Pay cap, the fight is very much on reports Shabbir Lakha.

Several thousand nurses gathered in Parliament Square today to protest the ongoing 1% pay cap on public sector workers. Nurses, who have had a 14% real-terms pay cut since the cap was enforced, as well as having to work with the pressures of an underfunded and increasingly privatised NHS, have reached boiling point.

In May, the Royal College of Nursing balloted its members on strike action. 80% of the over 50,000 members that responded said they were prepared to go on strike for the first time in history if the cap was not lifted. Three months on from the election that stripped Theresa May of her majority, the cap is still in place.

The Queen of U-turns confused the entire country and her own party when she ‘double u-turned’ on dropping the cap at the end of June. Once again it was reported two days ago that the Tories were set to lift the pay cap..only for Theresa May to dismiss the idea today at Prime Minister’s Questions, referring to public sector workers as “this, that and the other”.

Jeremy Corbyn supported the demonstration and encouraged people to join the nurses in Parliament Square. He later wrote on social media:

Theresa May has no problem finding £1 billion for the DUP, but won’t raise wages for the underpaid nurses and healthcare staff, some of whom are forced to use food banks to get by.

Britain is the only advanced economy with economic growth that is still facing stagnating wages. The public sector workers, fast food workers and those in the ‘gig economy’ are among the worst affected by decreasing real-term wages.

Throughout the summer there has been a wave of strike action from private sector workers from British Airways to the more recent McDonald’s strikers who went on strike for the first time in their history.

McStrikers have given confidence to the whole industry of workers who are not traditionally unionised and haven’t before taken action against the horrible conditions they are forced to work under for the low pay they receive. And similarly, nurses today have given confidence to the entire public sector to fight back against the pay cap. Just today, PCS announced that it will be balloting its members on strike action against the pay cap.

Public opinion has largely shifted against austerity over the last few years, highlighted in no small part by the election result in June. Now is the time to translate that consciousness into action and fight against the attack on workers’ rights and the clampdown on the wages of the majority for the consolidation of wealth by the richest in society.

As we’ve seen today, the nurses are leading the way. But we all need to join in the fight, support the nurses and public sector workers and share solidarity. We need to be unionising and getting as many workers represented and fighting; we need to be out on the picket lines supporting all workers taking action; and we need to be out on the streets – in Bristol this Saturday, in Manchester on 1st October – to bring this Tory government down.

Shabbir Lakha

Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.