With a second wave on the horizon and continuing government incompetence, we need to fight for health workers' rights now, writes Alia Butt
In July, the government announced a 3.1% public sector pay rise. After months of hyper-focus on the NHS and congratulation for the hard work and dedication of its staff, many were thrilled by the news. NHS staff, however, were enraged. Not only was the 3.1% coming from the already feeble departmental budgets and therefore being taken away from the service (and subsequently our patients), but it will also only be reaching a very small proportion of the frontline. Many, who have had to work relentlessly during this pandemic have been cruelly missed out of the disingenuous pay rise. Naturally, outsourced workers are not included, but neither are the many frontline nurses and doctors who have been working in less than safe conditions, without proper PPE, saving the lives of those suffering with covid19, including that of the Prime Minister.
The pandemic has meant the revealing of very serious problems in society. The government have been struggling to keep up and are having to take more notice of public opinion than usual. Since March, the government has made around 12 U-turns. It is clear that the government are in no position to guide the public through the upcoming second wave of the pandemic. Recent guidelines and messages have been focused on getting people back to work, food establishments, pubs, all over the high street and frankly anywhere with a cash register. Embarrassingly, the government continue to attempt to deflect responsibility onto others, only making it more evident that they will continue down a path of self-destruction and we can no longer expect much from them without taking the lead more vehemently.
In the NHS, we have had a very tough time during the pandemic. But anyone who works in the NHS knows that this is nothing new. We have long had to deal with staff shortages resulting in regular unpaid overtime and budgets being cut huge amounts leaving us unable to provide quality care for our patients. The crisis in the NHS is not a result of the pandemic, but a symptom of a heavily under-resourced health service that has been the subject of a drive to dismantle it through privatisation. For many years now, it has not been able to fulfil its basic tasks, let alone deal with a global pandemic.
As NHS staff we have come to expect horribly degraded conditions of work that would be deemed unacceptable in most other comparable workplaces. From broken computers to having to pay to park our cars at work, to the empty water dispensers and emptier kitchens, many NHS workers are starved of the basics both inside outside the workplace. The fact that we don’t even feel capable of demanding proper protective equipment to prevent us from getting infected by a deadly disease, which is still killing thousands across the planet, is the reality of the strategic undervaluing of an incredibly vital part of the workforce. As is the fact that many of those in the lowest paid roles and the highest risk of infection are from BAME communities.
But something has changed. Perhaps in response to the now glaringly obvious flaws in the wider system, workers everywhere have been getting more organised and making vital demands.
NHS workers have been taking to the streets, up and down the country, demanding a pay rise, particularly since the public sector pay rise boasted by the government has been revealed to be such a nasty lie. On Saturday 12 September there is a national day of socially distanced action.
In London, we will be assembling at the BBC - Portland place - and marching to Trafalgar Square.
If you work for the NHS, no matter what you do, get to a socially distanced protest tomorrow, and look out for more actions related to the campaign for better pay. It is vital we make our presence known, and that we represent the entire of the NHS. If it is safe for you to do so, please join us.
PLEASE NOTE: Because of the current pandemic, please only attend if you do not have any symptoms, do wear a mask at all times and observe strict social distancing measures.
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