|NHS workers rallied outside hospitals on Tuesday as unions hold ballots for possible industrial action against the government's derisory pay offer, reports Yonas Makoni
The mood was vibrant and energetic at St George’s Hospital in Tooting on Tuesday, as staff at the hospital came out in protest against the government’s 3% ‘pay rise’ for NHS workers. The protesters were blasting music and blaring horns and countless passers-by tooted their horns in support.
The protesters were making “as much noise as possible” to send a message to the government. Last month, Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced a 3% pay rise for NHS workers, a pitiful amount which, as one worker argued, does not even cover this year’s expected inflation of 3.9%.
Ten years of brutal austerity have seen NHS workers’ pay slashed in real terms. The government’s announcement in April that, following a year of Covid and the massive burden it put on the health service, they would give NHS workers a measly 1% pay rise triggered mass outrage. But following last month’s announcement, unions are now seriously discussing industrial action.
GMB, the British Medical Association, Unison, Unite and the Royal College of Nursing are currently holding consultative ballots on strike action. They are demanding a 15% pay rise, as a way of paying back NHS staff for the sacrifices they have made during Covid and ten years of austerity.
The protest at St George’s Hospital was called by the GMB and mostly attended by GMB members at the hospital, along with some RCN, Unite and Unison members. Some GMB members had come from other hospitals to support the demo.
While furious at the government, the workers were upbeat and confident that the public was with them and that they would be able to send a strong message to the government. A recent poll showed that a majority of Brits support a larger pay rise. The government, on the other hand, has shown itself to be remarkably weak in the face of public opposition. NHS workers now need to organise and return the biggest possible vote in favour of industrial action.