Nurse Kelly Robbins organised a march for nurses from the Royal Sussex County Hospital through Brighton to the Level today, Saturday 08 August, alongside a wave of protests across the UK including London. Ms Robbins wants change, that is, a pay rise and recognition for nurses and other NHS workers who served the country so heroically during the coronavirus crisis.
Almost 900,000 public sector workers, including senior doctors, will be given an above inflation pay rise backdated to April. However, more than one million NHS staff such as nurses, cleaners and care assistants are excluded because they are on a different contract. Nurses want a pay rise planned for next April to be brought forward in recognition of their service fighting coronavirus.
Ms Robbins thanked in particular intensive care unit and high dependency unit staff and paramedics who were redeployed to Covid-19 wards. She also thanked students who stepped up to help fight the coronavirus.
Ms Robbins said: “In responding to this pandemic, NHS workers have demonstrated their grit, tenacity and courage. They have demonstrated exactly why they deserve change. Many staff were redeployed to areas they’ve never worked in before, including some who hadn’t worked clinically for some time or were newly qualified. They were faced with looking after multiple critically ill patients many of whom required complex levels of care…
“Many NHS workers didn’t make it home at all, forgoing seeing their own families and living elsewhere in order to keep the people they cared about at home safe. Patients too were kept from their families and those who died, often did so without their own families by their side.
“NHS workers instead became their family, holding their hand as they took their last breath, making sure they didn’t die alone. While I am proud to work for an organisation that cares so much for those who need us most and has gone above and beyond during this pandemic, I am also angry that NHS workers sacrifice so much of their own physical and mental health but are recognised so little by our government.
“I know the public recognise us. I know they see us and I know they are proud of us. And we are grateful for the support the public has shown us. But we need that support, that pride, that recognition to be converted into policy. We need that belief in our NHS to lead to change that recognises our value and recognises us fairly.
“NHS staff have had their wages frozen, capped and cut for the last ten years and are being told they don’t deserve fair pay because this is a ‘vocation.’ NHS workers are leaving due to huge workloads, unsafe staffing ratios, low pay and lack of support.”
Gary Palmer who is a GMB Union regional organiser urged nurses to vote for and take industrial action which he said was the only way to force the government to listen.
Phelim MacCafferty, Leader of Brighton and Hove City Council read a statement from Caroline Lucas, Brighton Pavilion MP.
Mrs Lucas said: “Over the last few months NHS workers have shown us the very best of this country. Your perseverance, commitment and dedication in the face of this global crisis has been an inspiration to millions, including me.
“I want to say thank you to each and every one of you, the incredible nurses, doctors, NHS support staff, carers and domestic services staff who are still working flat out to continue to provide care and support to those most in need.
“But this context makes the pay rise snub for nurses and other NHS staff from this Government even more gut-wrenching.
“We know from recent polling that an overwhelming majority of the public think all NHS staff should get an early pay rise before the end of this year. The same research showed that two thirds of the public believe a wage increase for employees – including healthcare assistants, nurses, hospital porters, midwives, paramedics and cleaners – should be significant in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I have long lobbied and campaigned for proper funding for the NHS, and last month I co-signed an early day motion calling for an early pay raise for health workers before 2021. This Government must urgently recognise the extraordinary commitment and sacrifice of all NHS staff throughout the Covid-19 outbreak and the depth of public gratitude for this work must now be reflected in concrete policies.
“It is time the Government showed its support for the NHS and workers by turning warm words and applause into a firm commitment to bring forward NHS pay talks and to fund an early and meaningful pay rise.
“Whilst I can never say thank you enough for everything that you have done and continue to do, especially in the current circumstances, I will continue to fight your corner in Parliament during this crisis and beyond.”
Green Councillor and Leader Phelim MacCafferty said: “A decade of cuts, deregulation and the dismantling of the social fabric has left the vulnerable, public services and public sector workers exposed to the worst of this pandemic.
“Health workers have paid a heavy price for continuing to put us first. Over 540 health workers have died in the pandemic while far too many have been left exposed with no access to WHO-standard PPE.
“The past decade of Tory austerity, has seen NHS staff pay cut by 20% in real terms – just like that of local government workers. Both NHS and local government staff have kept our city with a low R and surviving the pandemic. And yet when push comes to shove, we have the nauseating sight of Tory MPs clapping for key workers on a Thursday night while they stick a knife in the back of public sector workers the very next day.
“This public health crisis has seen millionaires like Richard Branson bailed out while things many of us campaigned for years- the renationalised railways, rough sleepers accommodated- both of which have happened during this crisis- because none of these are impossible. They are about political priorities. So is fair pay for NHS workers.
“The pandemic is sadly very far from effectively suppressed. But having seen how poorly wave one has been handled by the Brexiteer buffoons, we can’t afford wave two. Figures published from the World Health Organisation only weeks ago affirm that the UK not only has highest number of deaths but the highest number of excess deaths per 100,000 people.
“We just don’t know what is going to happen next, and we have seen what incompetence we are up against in central government, but in spite of Tory Ministers, we owe it to the memory of the 161 people in our city who have died from Covid-19 to do everything we can to keep our communities safe.
“Nurses, Care workers, hospital cleaners and porters:
“You have been there for us through the terrifying dark days of the pandemic, when we are unwell, and when our loved ones enter and leave this world so now we are here for you. We stand with you as you continue your battle for fair pay. Solidarity.”
Brighton Kemptown’s MP, Lloyd Russell-Moyle also sent a statement of support. He said: “This Government has treated NHS workers with disrespect for ten long years. They have degraded professions and undervalued staff.
“Ten years of pay being frozen or below inflation increases. Ten years of undermining, under resourcing and outsourcing.
“Then after all this time, it is the brave NHS workers who have saved so many lives in the midst of a global pandemic. We have all relied on you over the last five months more than ever.
“You even saved the Prime Ministers life, something he should recognise now with a decent pay increase.
“Clapping for carers and key workers showed the overwhelming support the community has for the NHS but you can’t pay your bills or your rent with claps.
“It is time the government steps up and shows true appreciation with a pay increase.
And I will continue to fight in Westminster to achieve this aim. Thank you all and keep up the struggle.”
This article was first published in Brighton and Hove News on Saturday.