By Alison Brown, South Area Secretary of Unison Yorkshire Ambulance Branch (pc)
The Labour Party and Labour activists at every level must campaign in support of NHS workers’ full pay demand of 15pc.
15pc or £3,000, whichever is higher, is the demand put forward by grassroots health workers’ network NHS Workers Say No. Unite and the GMB have backed 15pc. The RCN, the biggest union among nurses, is calling for 12.5pc.
The Labour leadership has nodded towards support for the health workers – but been vague on the increase it proposes. Now Keir Starmer and Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth are saying that it should be “at least” 2.1pc.
Even this welcome statement from left-wing Labour MPs, backing NHS workers’ strike action if it comes, does not mention a figure, calling only for a “proper pay rise” and “fair pay”.
Like many other groups of workers, NHS staff have experienced large real-terms pay cuts over the last decade, in some cases more than 20pc. 15pc is an eminently moderate demand to make up that lost ground.
This in a situation where inequality has increased significantly and the rich got even richer. UK billionaires have increased their wealth by a third, or £40 billion, during the pandemic, and the Resolution Foundation estimates that the wealth held by the super-rich has been underestimated by £800 billion!
Over years the labour movement has allowed the aggressiveness of the Tories and employers to create a situation where any real-terms pay increase at all – or even any improvement from a dire first offer – is seen as a victory, even after many years of pay cuts. We need to break out of that and start to win decent pay rises for as many workers as possible.
Constituency Labour Parties and union branches should pass motions backing NHS Workers Say No’s full demands (model motion here) and push the party nationally and the leadership to do the same – and build campaigning links with health workers in their area.