We currently face over a 20% real-term pay cut for the average nurse since 2010.
At the moment we’re all going to be feeling a range of different feelings. “This isn’t enough.” “How dare they after the way we’ve been treated!” “Maybe we should just accept it ?” “Now is not the time?” They’re all totally understandable feelings, we all know that when you get news sprung on you it can feel like you’re thinking a lot of different things.
What we need to remember is the reason this Government has done this – to sow division amongst our profession, during their summer holidays, and stop us from organising an effective response to this pay offer.
All of you who are reading through this got through this pandemic by working with your teams and showing each other the compassion and care you show to your patients. That’s what makes you nurses. It has allowed you to persevere through a lack of PPE, your mental and physical health being challenged (in some cases overwhelmed) and the total absence of accountability, and care, from the likes of Matt Hancock whilst he was cynically handing over contracts to his friends.
And it is that unified approach that we need now to decide how we’re going to respond to this pay offer. It doesn’t matter what union you’re from, what colour you are, what you identify as, we all need to unite and make sure we raise our voices. Because if there’s one thing we’ve all seen this year, it’s how effectively NHS staff can organise when they need to.
It is needed now.
We currently face over a 20% real-term pay cut for the average nurse since 2010, which has caused over 50,000 vacancies. With a third of all of our colleagues over 51, that means that hundreds of thousands of our colleagues are going to be able to retire soon. Do you think after the year this Government has put them through that they’ll stay if we don’t fight to incentivise them to stay? Do you think that your patients will be kept safe in a situation where a third of all nurses suddenly disappear?
We need a pay rise. A substantial, restorative increase to bring us back to safety. And, this Government knows that it not only has the funds to pay for it but that the public back it too. The test and trace system, which does not work, costs us £37 billion. A 15% pay rise, which will drastically improve all our lives and those of our patients, requires a £5.1 billion investment. An investment which may well cost under £1 billion and create thousands of high-street jobs when the spending in our local communities are considered. It is no surprise that 75% of the public still support over a 10% pay rise for nurses.
Across the four nations we’ve seen the power of mobilising. That public support, the 3% offer, the MPs who back us, all came from the strength of the grassroots pay campaigns. And you should all draw strength from what we have achieved. This Government is scared and knows that if they pit themselves against nurses trying to protect their patient’s safety, they’re going to lose.
Now you need to organise and, like our rallies and demos, yes we can do it ourselves because the union is its members and it needs your activism and skill to get this done. We just need to be systematic in our approach.
So what do you do now?
It takes 40% of all NHS members in a union to vote yes and 50% of all NHS members to even vote, to pass a ballot for industrial action. This includes actions such as work to rule or a ‘strike’. That means you have to get going now if we’re going to pass these ballots.
So here’s a to do list you need to do and you need to get 5 other people in your workplace to do as well:
- Update your details with your union – make sure your address, workplace, email address and phone number are upto date.
- Sign up to any activist training that your union is offering, attend your branch meetings and offer your time to get involved with building up connections on the ground and contacting other members.
- Start mapping out your workplaces – you only need a contact in every ward and team in your hospital to have the ability to contact every nurse in a trust, we all have work whatsapp chats so use them to get messages shared including this article.
- Have conversations with everybody and treat it as a public health conversation, that means actively listening to what they’re saying, asking them open questions and potentially taking multiple attempts to convince them to get active.
- Believe in yourself – nurses built our NHS and got us through a pandemic, your transferable skills are just that, transferrable.
Together we can win this pay rise and protect our patients. It will take work and organisation, but it has been done before and when nurses have, they have won.