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March for Pay Justice for NHS and Key Workers, 29 July. Photo: Alia Butt

March for Pay Justice for NHS and Key Workers, 29 July. Photo: Alia Butt

Caitlin Southern on why you should support the protests around the country this Saturday for NHS pay justice

This coming Saturday the demonstrations across the UK calling for a fair pay rise for all NHS staff deserve the support of socialists, as they highlight the continued attempts of the government to further fracture the already fragile unity of the health service and the determination of the workers to resist this fresh attack.

These protests have been called spontaneously by NHS staff disgusted and appalled that the government has arbitrarily rewarded some sections of the workforce while ignoring others. This display of interdisciplinary solidarity is important as it shows that NHS staff are not going to be divided but will unite to demand fair treatment for all, as all rely on each other and deserve to be treated the same.

We have to fight the government on this issue as it is a shameless attempt to divide and weaken workers at a time when it is difficult to combine our strength. If we can win this fight, completely or partially, we can carry the momentum forward and demand a better deal for all workers.

There will be the usual cries that healthcare professionals should not be encouraging or attending demonstrations during a pandemic but the situation is urgent if we are to maintain public support and avoid falling into the trap of waiting for the opportune moment rather than utilising the momentum at hand.

We cannot wait until the pandemic is over to defend workers and services for the simple reason that we don’t know when that will be or how much damage will have been inflicted on the service by that point. The suggestion that demonstrations will cause the infection rate to increase was also used to try and prevent or discredit the recent Black Lives Matter protests but was shown to be incorrect due to the care taken by organisers and attendees to follow physical distancing and PPE protocols.

Following years of pay freezes, below inflation pay rises and attacks on the terms and conditions of all of our health and social care workers, they deserve better treatment and we must stand with them, now and in whatever battles face us in the future. We clapped for our carers and lauded them as heroes when they proved they were willing to die in service, now we must support them as they demand the means to live.

So please, if there is a demonstration local to you this Saturday attend if you feel comfortable doing so and can wear a face mask. You can find your nearest protest here. We must remind the government that we can and will fight to defend and improve our pay and conditions, we must not allow them to continue to profit at our expense.

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