By Mattha Busby/Guardian News & Media
Hundreds of people have converged on central London to march for fair pay for National Health Service (NHS) staff and recognition of their work during the coronavirus pandemic.
The coronavirus causes the Covid-19 respiratory disease.
More than 30 marches across the UK were planned this weekend as anger grows about an absence of action to match gestures such as weekly applause following deaths from coronavirus of healthcare workers.
Last month, the government announced a pay rise for NHS doctors but not nurses and other workers, in a move unions described as “the final straw”.
Dr Tony O’Sullivan, co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public, said: “This shameful government has given hundreds of millions to their friends to fund secretive and abysmally-failing Covid contracts, overseen the disaster of 65,000 deaths and, with utter hypocrisy, clapped the NHS it has neglected, for its work during this pandemic.
“Now it abuses the goodwill and commitment of our nurses and other NHS staff by refusing them any pay award.
“The government has rejected an opportunity for a meaningful thank you that could have addressed the 20% cuts in pay inflicted since 2010 – small wonder then that there are now 44,000 nurse vacancies.”
Helen O’Connor, an organiser from the GMB union, said: “Healthcare workers were hailed as heroes at the height of the pandemic so it is no surprise how angry they are now the government is showing just how little they think of them.
“If we really want an NHS capable of dealing with a crisis and all the other demands, then the government must start treating healthcare workers with dignity and respect and this starts with fair pay.
“If our NHS is to survive for future generations, the cuts and privatisation agenda of this government must be completely reversed.
“NHS workers know they are not just fighting for themselves they are fighting for the survival of our NHS.”
The protests took place in London, Liverpool, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Cardiff and elsewhere across the UK.
In the capital, protesters made their way along Whitehall towards Downing Street.
A blue banner reading “End NHS pay inequality, together we win” led the march.
Many were carrying placards, including one which said: “Boris, remember my neighbour Lewis, what about his pay rise? He saved your life, now reward us.”
Organisers from NHS Workers Say No To Public Sector Pay Inequality said: “We do not accept your plans to exclude us from the public sector pay increase, and we will make ourselves heard until you listen.
“We are feeling undervalued, demoralised, overworked and exhausted. We have lost colleagues to Covid-19 and the fight is not over.”
A recent survey by the Royal College of Nursing of 42,000 nursing staff showed that 36% were considering leaving the profession, with most saying that pay was a factor in their decision – following a reported real terms cut of more than £6,000 to the average band five NHS nurse after a failure of wages to raise with inflation.
Hundreds of deaths of NHS and private healthcare staff from coronavirus have been recorded, with black, Asian and minority ethnic nurses, doctors and porters been hardest hit.
A lack of testing and shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), particularly in the early stages of the pandemic, left many healthcare workers exposed.
Meanwhile, there have been warnings that the government has used the pandemic to transfer key public health duties from the NHS and other state bodies to the private sector without proper scrutiny.
LEAVE A COMMENT Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*
Erdogan urges dialogue on east Mediterranean, not 'harassment'
Airlines call for Covid-19 tests before all international flights
UK says people should work from home if they can as COVID-19 spreads
Madrid asks for army’s help in Covid-19 battle
Italy’s right-wing fails to make expected gains in regional polls
Scores of migrants at new Greek camp contract coronavirus disease
Meghan, Harry ‘did not collaborate with book’
UK could see 50,000 virus cases a day by October: govt
More than 150 nations join global vaccine plan but US, China absent