NHS pay march, 2020 NHS pay march, 2020. Photo: Shabbir Lakha

Ian Johnston explains why NHS staff will be joining the People’s Assembly demonstration outside the Tory Party conference on 3 October

On 3 October, the Tories will once again be blotting the Manchester landscape with their conference. This is a massive opportunity for the labour movement to take to the streets with the People’s Assembly, build a fighting opposition to this government and demand a new normal for working class people everywhere.

As an NHS worker, I will be part of the demonstration. Last month the Tory government announced we would be receiving a 3% ‘pay rise’. This is a pitiful amount which does not even cover the year’s projected inflation rise of 3.9%. It also ignores the fact that NHS workers have seen their pay slashed in real terms over the past ten years.

Under Tory austerity, an average nurse lost 20% of the real value of their salary. Workers who were lauded as ‘heroes’ early in this pandemic are being forced to use food banks, work overtime to pay their bills, and are falling into increasing levels of debt. It is therefore hardly surprising that so many of them are considering quitting their jobs – and there is already a shortage of tens of thousands of nurses in the NHS.

NHS staff work with people, fight alongside them, advocate for them when they have no voice, and sometimes succeed despite the odds being stacked against us. Many of us have to deal with trauma and death on a regular basis, During the ongoing pandemic, colleagues have put their own lives at risk – often whilst having to use inadequate protective equipment – resulting in the tragic deaths of hundreds of NHS staff.

Porters, receptionists, administrative staff, midwives, paramedics, cleaners, radiographers, domestics, consultants, drivers, care workers and lots of other people, from across the NHS family, went to work one day and never came back. Black and Asian workers, many of whom have come from around the world to work for the NHS, have been disproportionately affected by Covid. But this sacrifice appears to have been forgotten by the Tories.

Our NHS is amazing, and I am so proud to work for it. It allows us to care for the most vulnerable people, bringing some light to their darkest moments, whilst also having the opportunity to meet individuals who can change our own lives, moral standpoints and attitudes. But we deserve a much larger pay rise than is being offered. As a colleague asked, “How much is it worth to hold a dying child’s hand?” There is now a growing consensus that industrial action could be the only way for us to achieve such an increase.

3 October is about generating the kind of fighting opposition the wider labour movement needs. Keir Starmer has left barely anything to be desired in this regard, with a ‘loyal opposition’ which has amounted to barely any opposition at all. Time and again it has fallen to the wider movements to build the opposition to this disastrous government which he has proven to be incapable of.

Manchester will be a vital part of this battle. See you there!

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