Unite NHS members march on Downing Street this evening

Unite NHS members will this evening be at the forefront of a march to Downing Street to show their anger at being overlooked in the latest round of public sector pay rises – despite more than 500 NHS and social care staff dying from Covid-19.

The Unite branch at Guy’s and St Thomas Hospital will at 6pm be marching from St Thomas’ Hospital to Downing Street to protest at the government’s decision to put off a pay rise for NHS staff until April next year – when the three year pay deal comes to an end. The march will be attended and supported by NHS staff across London.

Last week, chancellor Rishi Sunak awarded up to a 3.1% pay rise for 900,000 public sector workers, including doctors, teachers and police officers. Unite accused the chancellor of having “a selective memory” when it comes to public sector pay, rewarding some, but ignoring hundreds of thousands of others.

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “Nursing staff and other allied health professionals have reacted with anger to being overlooked when pay rises were given to many in the public sector last week and the government not hearing the health trade unions’ call to bring their pay rise forward from April 2021.

“This sense of anger was heightened, especially in light of their work and sacrifices during the global pandemic which has taken the lives of more than 500 NHS and social care staff across the UK.

“We are facing a perfect storm for recruitment and retention in the NHS – in a decade of Tory austerity, NHS staff have seen their pay cut by 20% in real terms and many are considering leaving the health service; at the same time, there are about 40,000 nursing vacancies in England alone.

“This crisis is also being exacerbated by the scrapping of the student bursary, which is putting off many who may have considered becoming one of the next generation of nurses.

“What we have seen in the last few months is generous praise, warm words, and lots of Thursday evening clapping by ministers; yet we got a flavour of the government’s true feelings with Rishi Sunak’s lack of a pay announcement for NHS staff last week, with no statement dealing with our call to move the pay of NHS workers forward.

“The public expects – and ministers should deliver – a substantial pay increase for NHS staff that reflects their real worth to the NHS and society more generally. NHS workers shouldn’t have to wait till April 2021.”

Unite branch secretary at Guy’s and St Thomas Hospital Mark Boothroyd said: “We have called this demonstration to express the anger that so many of our members feel at the government’s derisory treatment of NHS staff.

“After all our sacrifice during the pandemic, to exclude us from the pay deal and make us wait till April 2021, is a slap in the face and our members are going to Downing Street to tell Boris Johnson this directly.”

Nurse and member of Keep Our NHS Public Iain Wilson said: “I’m tired of this government letting us down. They lie about privatising our jobs, about recruiting 50,000 more nurses and about PPE during the pandemic. Things can’t improve in the NHS without more staff to care for our aging population, and we won’t have more staff until existing staff are trusted and valued, so that more people want to join us. After everything we’ve done, we deserve better, and a pay rise should be the start.”

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