By Roise McCann
The 12 May is International Nurses Day. It is taking place in the same year that health workers across the UK were at the fore of a wave of industrial action taken to demand inflation-busting pay rises, safe staffing, and defence of the NHS from impending collapse fueled by Tory privatisation.
The disparity between the crucial role of health workers and the realities of their dissipating pay and working conditions have never been as stark. Health workers shouldered the enormous burden of keeping the deeply broken health system afloat during the Covid-19 pandemic through significant personal sacrifice and extra hours worked without pay on the good will of workers. The majority of health workers are women, who disproportionately bear the brunt of billions of pounds worth of society’s informal and unpaid care work making women nurses some of the groups most reliant on food banks as the cost of living crisis continues to spiral.
Luckily, we have Tory ministers to remind us repeatedly in the media that nursing is a “vocation”, that nurses should not complain about meagre wages or wards staffed by a couple of colleagues, and they certainly should not go on strike. Healthcare workers responded by coming out in their hundreds of thousands to fight for pay rises that would help restore safe staffing levels. Cuts to life saving services that have created longer waiting lists than ever for service users. Health workers have had enough; in taking industrial action many workers have connected the struggle for better pay and conditions to the fight for their patients and against the rampant privatisation of the system.
While pay offers on the table of 5% represent progress for many workers, it falls short of what is necessary to restore pay to 2008 levels. Junior doctors on strike in England have demonstrated the decimation of health professionals’ wages by demanding a 35% pay increase to restore wages to where they were in 2008.
Join us for a day of action on 12 May for International Nurses Day, to mobilise health workers, working people and young people looking to struggle for genuine change that offers dignity for health workers and service users alike.