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Grassroots NHS staff refuse to give up fight for 15% pay rise

NHS staff risking their lives on the Covid frontline continue to campaign for a 15% pay rise.

And with the second wave of coronavirus currently battering hospitals, it's clear more than ever that staff efforts need to be recognised and rewarded — not just with badges and snack boxes.

 

Up to 3,000 nurses have lined the streets and protested virtually across the country throughout the summer. A previous demonstration in Liverpool, held on October 17, was forced online due to lockdown restrictions.

 

The protests began after the government announced a pay rise for 900,000 public sector professionals, including doctors, teachers, and police officers, but excluded nurses.

 

This is despite figures from the NHS revealing the average nurse pay has fallen by 7.4% since 2010.

 

Five nurses from London retaliated by setting up a Facebook group called NHS workers say NO! Overnight, it gained a following of 10,000. At present, there are over 85,000 members.

 

With the help of Nurses United, a grassroots organisation for nurses, the group have organised several nationwide protests.

 

Laura Ellen, a student nurse who set up Liverpool NHS Worker Say No, warns the government needs to listen to staff before it’s too late.

 

"We are quite often shut up and shunned. Now we are saying, 'no'".

 

“You need to pay us or you are going to lose us,” she warned.

 

“We are quite often shut up and shunned. Now we are saying, ’no’.

 

“There’s a staffing crisis and the way to tackle that is that, if you value your staff and pay them properly, you will be able to retain them and keep the NHS going.”

 

Ellen pointed out the hypocrisy of “shameless” MPs who joined the nation to clap for carers during lockdown, yet are set to receive a £3,500 pay rise while NHS staff are forgotten.

 

She also added how nurses are “furious” with the government paying private consultants £7,000 a day to run the controversial track and trace service.

 

“We all know how hard NHS staff have worked,” added Ellen, who is raising awareness of the campaign by asking people to spread the message to five friends.

 

“I think in Liverpool, with the amount of hospitals we have got, if you are not an NHS worker, you know someone who is. Everyone wants to keep their family safe.”

Protests at St. George's Hall. Image by Kevin Robinson

 

Nurses will have to wait until March next year before finding out whether they will receive a pay rise.

 

Health sector unions said this was “not acceptable” back in July and urged for pay rises to be brought forward, given the tireless efforts of NHS staff throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

 

An NHS worker, who wished to remain anonymous, told Scottie Press that this problem dates back longer than Covid-19.

 

“I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed my job,” they said. “It’s been years.”

 

“The Tories have neglected the NHS for a long time and we’ve paid the price as a result. Maybe if they hadn’t underfunded and privatised services, we would be able to cope with coronavirus much better.

 

“There wouldn’t be any staff shortages if they paid a decent wage.”

Protests at Albert Dock. Image by Kevin Robinson

 

Analysis from the GMB trade union found that £15bn worth of NHS services have been handed to private companies since 2015, while last month there were 40,000 vacancies for nurses in the NHS in England.

 

Kevin Robinson, the founder of Everton Together and the Green Party candidate for Everton, attended a previous protest held in Liverpool.

 

He criticised the government for bringing the NHS to “its knees”.

 

“It’s worrying that the government promise us one thing and then go and do another,” he said

 

“All the benefits that nurses had during the first wave have finished. They have got to pay for their parking again. Every week people were going out clapping for the NHS, which is good for morale, but they are struggling financially.

 

“With Liverpool at the minute, beds are almost full, the government has got the NHS at its knees. It must be hard for them.”

 

Robinson says he was inspired by dedicated nurses like his niece, who currently works on a Covid ward in a Merseyside hospital.

 

“She’s finding it hard mentally,” he said. “She must be seeing some horrible things and the pressure she’s in too.”

 

In response to the protests, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are grateful for the hard work and dedication of our frontline staff, particularly during the pandemic.

 

“NHS staff are currently benefitting from the final year of a three-year pay deal, agreed with trade unions, which has delivered year-on-year pay increases, such as increasing the starting salary for a newly qualified nurse by 12% by 2021.

 

“The independent NHS Pay Review Body makes recommendations to government on pay increases for NHS staff, including nurses, and we will consider their advice when we receive it, while continuing to listen to our valued staff and the trade unions to ensure everyone is rewarded fairly.”

Everton Together attend protests at St. George's Hall