Supporting our health workers on strikePosted: October 13, 2014
Today I was up early at 5.30am doing my day job and supporting UNISON health workers on strike at the Royal Berkshire Hospital. Our pickets included nurses, ambulance workers and admin staff amongst many more and received national and local coverage on the BBC front page, Reading Now (who have kindly quoted me) and Get Reading.
The strike today marked the first NHS pay strike for our members in three decades. We were joined by a range of unions but most excitingly the Royal College of Midwives who had their first strike in over 130 years. This perhaps demonstrates the gravity of the current situation around pay. Across the country over 400,000 members took part and locally, a symphony of car horns, bike bells and pedestrians clapping signified considerable support for our members.
The industrial action took place following a decision by the government to ignore advice from the independent pay body to reward staff a 1% pay rise. However, one staff member told me that she had lost £3000 since 2010 and another remarked about countless additional unpaid hours she puts in to make services better for patients. The hypocrisy of ministers who have awarded themselves a 9% pay rise and who waxed lyrical about how much they loved the NHS at party conferences over the last month, is astounding.
In my opinion, NHS staff have looked after me since the beginning of my life and will continue until the end. They have birthed me, nursed every single sporting injury (and there have been many) and kept me an all round healthy individual. I could not appreciate the work they do more and the good spirits with which they carry it out, despite the immense pressure.
Strikes are not decisions taken lightly. In this austere environment, many members cannot afford to lose a day of pay. I truly believe that staff at Royal Berkshire and other hospitals across the UK want to give the best care possible and would not choose to inconvenience patients if they weren’t at breaking limit. I have also seen some of the conditions which staff are forced to work in and I have heard their stories about pay. When members tell us that a 1% pay rise is a mere £1.99 extra each week, then I feel compelled to act.
Thanks for all the support today, whether you beeped, tweeted, smiled or waved. It kept our spirits high in the rain.