Today the government announced a pay rise for some public sector workers. It notably excludes nurses, one of the biggest health & social care workforces in the UK. Understandably, this has gone down like a lead balloon, writes nurse Jemma James.
Nurses aren’t just angry because of pay. We’re angry for a lot of reasons. We’re angry because of years of brutal cuts to health and social care in the name of austerity. Cuts cost lives – patients and staff. It’s that simple. We’re angry because nurses, carers and support workers are being paid less than a living wage and constantly told their professions are ‘vocations’. We’re angry at the ongoing privatisation of public services which has resulted in job losses, service cuts and the deaths of our most marginalised and disadvantaged. We’re angry that nurses and carers have the highest suicide rates in the UK due to huge workloads, unsafe staffing ratios, lack of support and media pressure. Before Covid-19 when was the last time you heard about a nurse or carer in the media unless they’d done something wrong? We’re angry at the fact we have to pay thousands of pounds to work full time, for free, to train and graduate with tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt (in England, anyway). We’re angry at relying on food banks and charities such as the Cavell Trust to survive day-to-day.
We’re angry, and heartbroken, that we’ve lost colleagues, loved ones and friends to Covid-19. The death toll has been huge. We’ve lost over 540 health and social care workers in the UK so far - especially care home and BAME nurses & care workers. Thousands more are still suffering from the illness and its complications. We’ve lost some to suicide from the trauma of what they’ve seen and dealt with during the pandemic whilst the survivors struggle with PTSD. Many will carry the scars for the rest of their lives.
Did the government respond with PPE, track and trace or early lockdown? No. Instead, they clapped and tried to sell us a wartime story based on ‘blitz spirit’ and the famed ‘stiff upper lip’. After all, it's easier to accept losses when they're phrased like they're unavoidable or a necessary and heroic sacrifice.
But we are not angels. We are not martyrs. We are not brave warriors on some imaginary front line. We are human beings. We are highly trained professionals desperately doing our best despite the odds. And then the government announced this pay rise.
This pay announcement is designed to drive a wedge between public services. The government deliberately picked teachers for the highest raise as they’re the group who’ve been repeatedly targeted for being 'paid to do nothing' which is hugely untrue but gives people a target to aim their rage and frustration at that's not the government. They also picked doctors because nurses and doctors have had each other’s backs in previous pay disputes and strikes and they want to drive a wedge in there too. But why have they done it (this time)?
Maybe it was to hide last night’s vote. A vote where the government refused to take all publicly owned health and social care, including the NHS, off the table for US-trade negotiations. Or maybe it’s just the latest in a long line of increasingly desperate attempts by the government to point the finger at anyone and anywhere else for its disgraceful ‘response’ to the pandemic and silence calls for a full, independent enquiry.
The truth is, all public sector workers (& many more besides) deserve a pay rise. The government wants us divided so they can watch us fight each other rather than uniting and fighting them. We cannot turn on each other. We have to stand together & say enough is enough. No more cuts. No more privatisation. No more excuses. We deserve fair pay, all of us, and now is the time to push for it.
Jemma James, is a Staff Nurse based in Newcastle and is a member of Nurses United.
If you work within the NHS and want to get involved you can find out more about our new campaign group NHS Staff Voices here.
The vast majority of doctors – the junior doctors and GPs – are also not included in this; only consultants and Staff grades (those not in training). Please don’t let the government succeed in dividing us again with totally false information.
These people have risked their lives for us all.
Often living apart from their families.
They have lived with low pay for a number of years, this cannot go on. I for one will be very angry if politicians get an increase this year without a sizeable pay rise for medical staff.
This is unforgivable. These medical staff – at all levels, have given their all during this pandemic, selflessly putting themselves and their families at risk to help others – including our Prime Minister. They were praised constantly and asked, by the government, to continue with the fight. Members of the government joined on each Thursday evening in the national show of appreciation of all the key workers in the country. It sadly seems words come easily but are not followed by actions. Our wonderful Health Service need to be treated with the respect they deserve. Where would we be without them?
I’m a near retirement artists who is about to donate 3 pieces of art to the Nhs in York ,I will always advocate a decent pay rise for nurses + maybe reduce the Hospital management to bring in more nurses ,because there are too many of them and they spoil the broth on obscene salaries . it is so topsy tervy, the whole system isn’t it
This is a gross insult to highly professional people and comes at a time when their expertise is desperately needed shame on the government for this hypocritical decision when as yet there is little or no sign of an end to this pandemic ! or what may follow
This is a massive kick in the teeth. These workers put themselves at risk to do their jobs, not for the money but because they believe in their profession. As usual the government uses them and spits them out, even though they saved his life! They deserve the biggest payrise. If the government dares to award himself or his cronies a payrise it would be scandalous. But what’s a betting they will!
Clap for the NHS …..clapping doesn’t pay their bills, what an insult, how low can this government stoop and don’t dare mention the pay rise they got previously ….that was paid for from their pension scheme. Oh yes we really value the nurses, how dare the government treat them in this way. I hope we don’t get a second wave of covid, Boris Johnston has got a very short memory
Sadly this is hardly unexpected.Never believe an MP,the truth exists in what they DONT say.Everything else is purely vote grabbing.B
Overlooking the 6.5% Negotiated pre Covid 19. Yes , I agree its still not enough