NHS staff led a rally and march through Bristol today against government cuts and to call for a restorative pay uplift.
The protest, organized by grassroots group NHS Workers Say No Bristol and Protect Our NHS, rides on a wave of resentment within the NHS over the government’s announcement of a 1% pay rise for NHS staff.
In a statement, Alex Oldham, of NHS Workers Say No Bristol, said ‘the 1% “offer” is a disgrace and will ensure that NHS pay continues to lag behind the cost of living.
‘Over the last decade of wage restraint, pay for NHS staff has fallen in real terms by 15 to 20%, whilst MPs have had eight pay rises over the same period taking their pay from over £60,000 to nearly £82,000.’
Against the proposed pay rise, NHS Workers Say No demand a ‘restorative 15% pay rise. Speaking at a demo in May, Alex said that 15% would ‘[repair] the injury that a decade of pay restraint, including pay freezes and austerity, has done to our pay packets.’
NHS Workers Say No are prepared to call for industrial action should their demands not be met.
Saturday’s (July 3) protest drew a crowd of around 50 people to hear speeches from practising NHS staff on College Green before marching to Castle Park, where political figures and representatives from unions spoke.
Speakers were scathing of the government’s handling of the pandemic, the abandonment of frontline NHS staff, and the continued privatisation of NHS services towards a US style health insurance model.
Green councillor Carla Denyer announced that she would support NHS staff should they pursue strike action over pay.
Saturday’s protest in Bristol is part of a national day of action in cities across the UK led by NHS Workers Say No alongside Keep Our NHS Public, Health Campaigns Together, and NHS Staff Voice.
When asked if this wave of protest signalled a rise in dissent within the NHS, Alex Oldham said ‘if you can’t be bothered to get active and fight this now, think about how you’re going to feel in 10 years time.
‘This pay dispute has been happening for 10 years can you do another 10 years of this?’
Highlighting that nurses are today around £6,000 per year worse off than in 2010, Alex asks ‘do you want to carry on with this, or do you want to do something about it?’
The protest coincides with the 73rd birthday of the NHS, which was instituted on July 5, 1948.
Mike Campbell for Protect our NHS said ‘On this the 73rd birthday of the NHS, we show total solidarity with NHS staff.
‘We will ensure that patient safety, NHS privatisation and the government’s woeful handling of the Covid-19 pandemic remain clearly in the public eye.’