The pay-cap imposed for years on our vital public servants has made them – including many SKWAWKBOX readers – thousands of pounds a year worse off, creating a personal financial crisis for many, damaging our economy – and endangering all of us through the huge shortfall in health-care staff this impoverishment has created.
Nurses are among the hardest hit – one in ten NHS nurse posts are unfilled, a shortfall of around 36,000 – and it’s only getting worse. Loss of income is only one facet of the problem – NHS staff are under enormous and increasing pressure because of government cuts to funding, training places and bursaries – but it’s a huge one. If you face extreme pressure at work, then rising living costs and falling income make the burden even harder to bear.
So nurses are taking action with their ‘Scrap the Cap’ campaign – and will be gathering, along with their supporters, for a huge rally in London next week.
Danielle Tiplady is a well-known nursing campaigner. She told the SKWAWKBOX about the campaign and the rally – and why it’s vital we all support it:
My name is Danielle, I am a staff nurse and an activist in both the Royal College of Nursing and the Labour Party.
I am a big supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. During the general election I was on the BBC talking about the hardship nurses face and pledging my support to the Labour’s NHS policies.
Whilst I was training as a nurse, the Tory government decided to cut the bursaries for NHS students. This made me furious, the bursary was my life line, it gave me the opportunity to reach my dreams and become a nurse. I would not have gone into nursing if I had been forced to pay thousands of pounds, basically just to work – the thought of huge debt is too daunting.
I channelled my anger into doing something, and soon myself and other students had started the ‘bursary or bust‘ campaign to reinstate the NHS bursary. We lobbied, protested, took part in different forms of eye catching stunts, we got support from the unions and the Labour Party, whom secured an opposition day debate.
But nothing worked our pleas fell on deaf ears with the Tories, who seem intent on destroying the nursing profession. This year the bursary has gone and the numbers applying dropped by 23% which comes as no surprise to me. Student nurses should be nurtured, not penalised for wanting to care for the nation. Who is going to be there in the future to care for you and me when we need it the most?
As a qualified nurse, I started a petition on public sector pay which was debated in parliament. Tory MP’s ‘sympathised‘ with us, but still kept the pay cap during the budget. The Royal College of Nursing held a pay poll after the budget and 91% of recipients said they would be willing to take some form of industrial action. At our conference we decided to have a ‘summer of protest’ and that if the cap is not lifted after this, we will have a formal ballot for industrial action in the autumn months.
This is unprecedented. The RCN have never taken industrial action before, so it demonstrates just how bad the situation has become and it’s a decision none of us will take lightly.
The question should not be ‘can we afford this?’ but ‘can we afford not to lift the cap?’ With no nurses, there will be no NHS. The Tories know this.
RCN members like myself have been working incredibly hard this summer out leafleting, petitioning and sharing our message far and wide that the Tories must lift the pay cap.
There are nurses living in hardship, this is not ‘complex’ as our PM may like to state. Our wages have fallen by 14% in real terms since 2010 due to the pay restraint. The cost of living rises, many have families to feed. It is not hard to understand how people could end up in a challenging financial position.
For example: 17 nurses a day apply for pay day loans. Nurses are also essential for patient safety, research has shown that the more nurses on a ward, the safer and higher quality care patients receive.
No one becomes a nurse for the money. We just want to be paid fairly, which is not too much to ask especially when Jeremy Hunt can spend £44,000 on a toilet! Nurses are at breaking point. The deliberate underfunding, undermining and under-appreciating of our NHS by the government has caused us to feel like this.
If something is bad for our nurses, it is bad for patients and we are all patients so it is time for us to take a stand.
On September the 6th at 12.30pm the RCN are hosting their biggest ever rally at Parliament Square.
We will be outside demanding a change and making our presence known whilst MP’s are in their first PMQ’s back from summer. We need to make sure our nurses roar, so please come and join us, the pay cap affects each and every one of us. There will be nurses from all over the UK joining in their thousands and there will be speakers such as Rob Delaney and I also will be saying a few words.
The rally’s Facebook page gives more details.
The SKWAWKBOX calls on everyone who can do so to attend the rally and show support for our nurses – and all our hard-working public servants. The vast majority of the UK’s people have huge respect for our NHS staff and most of us can tell of the heroic care we or a loved on has received – and of lives saved by these under-appreciated heroes. We need to show it.
And even for the few who don’t appreciate the people, from nurses and firefighters to road-sweepers, who save our lives and keep our society functioning, the economics mean everyone should back scrapping the cap.
While the Tories trumpet increases in low-paid, insecure work, their decision to take money out of the pockets of millions of public-sector workers damages our economy.
Money to the richest goes into already-fat bank accounts or out of the country into tax havens. Money to ordinary people goes straight back into the economy, helping us all and creating far more – and better – jobs and funding a decent, safe society for all of us.
So if you can be there next Wednesday, please do – and if you can’t, why not write to your MP and tell him/her that you expect them to ask a question about public sector pay and to refer specifically to the nurses rallying outside?
If next week’s PMQs becomes all about pay for nurses and other public servants, the issue will be hugely enhanced in the public consciousness – and will be far, far harder for the Establishment media to ignore.
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