LONDON — “We’ve been quiet for too long,” Lana Bonas, a nurse at St. Thomas’ Hospital here, told the Militant as she joined hundreds of other health workers marching to Downing Street to demand a pay raise. The action was one of 35 similar protests organized by nurses and union members across England, Scotland and Wales Aug. 8.
“If we don’t do or say anything, things won’t get any better,” said protester Barbara Kombe, a pediatric nurse at Evalina Children’s Hospital.
Student nurse Laura Hother organized a 150-strong protest of health workers in Liverpool, when she realized no one else was planning an action there. “We are treated disgustingly,” she told the crowd. “There aren’t enough staff, there are 44,000 nursing vacancies in England. People are working 24-hour shifts sometimes; that’s not safe for them or the patients.”
Some 900,000 public-sector workers were awarded an above inflation pay deal last month. But the government justified excluding a million health workers, including nurses, cleaners and care assistants, from that deal, saying union leaders had approved a three-year pay agreement for them two years ago. Unions are now demanding that the 2021 pay raise due these workers next April be implemented now.
“This is not just about nurses. It’s about all workers,” Georgina Warwick, a general nurse in an acute-care hospital in Hertfordshire who joined the London protest, told the Militant.
“Compared with cost-of-living increases since 2010,” nurse Med Wood told the BBC, “we are still earning less that we were 10 years ago.”