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Nurses across England are preparing to protest to demand a significant pay rise this year, as part of a grassroots movement born on social media.
Within just one week, the ‘NHS workers say NO! to public sector pay inequality’ Facebook group has exploded to garner more than 65,000 followers.
“This will be a step towards clawing back what we have lost over a decade”
The group is not affiliated with any unions and is run by frontline nurses and midwives who are angry at the government’s decision to exclude their professions from the recent pay award for other public sector professions in England.
The next pay negotiations for NHS staff on the Agenda for Change pay contract are due to take place in 2021 when the current three-year deal comes to an end in March.
However, the protesters calling on the government to push forward the talks and to implement a 15% wage rise for AfC workers by 1 December this year.
They argue that the real-terms value of nurses’ pay had reduced by 20% since 2010 due to previous wage restrictions and budget cuts.
A day of action has been organised on 8 August and at the time of writing demonstrations had been organised across 25 different cities. An additional march is also set to take place tomorrow.
Holly Turner, London organiser and nurse, told Nursing Times: “We’re calling for a 15% pay rise to show that we care for our carers, to reduce staffing vacancies so that we’re prepared for a second wave.
“This will be a step towards clawing back what we have lost over a decade.”
She said they were also asking the government to “acknowledge the race pay gap” in the NHS by having a person of colour on all interview panels by 1 December.
The demonstrations are being supported by Nurses United, a similarly grassroots campaign group run by frontline nurses for frontline nurses.
“It shows that there’s an interest and appetite for change and being active”
Its lead organiser Anthony Johnson told Nursing Times he had been “impressed” by the way NHS workers say NO! had grown so quickly to become the biggest Facebook group of nurses in the UK.
“It shows that there’s an interest and appetite for change and being active,” said Mr Johnson, who is a health visitor.
He said the planned protests were about more than just pay.
“When you talk to people about a pay rise, they are saying is this like the thin wedge of the overall issue which is that they want to feel valued and that they are actually able to do their jobs,” he said.
The demonstration tomorrow will see nurses and other NHS staff across London march to Downing Street at 6pm and is being led by the Unite union branch at Guy’s and St Thomas Hospitals.
Mark Boothroyd, A&E nurse and branch secretary, described the decision to exclude nurses from the pay deal as a “slap in the face”.
The protests on 8 August will meet at 11am with marches starting at 12noon. Social distancing and face coverings will be mandatory.
A Royal College of Nursing spokesperson said it supported members who wanted to “respectfully and safely show the strong voice of nursing across the UK”.
“The government must look at these professionals, hear their arguments and accept there’s no alternative to a significant pay rise this year – waiting until 2021 is unacceptable,” they added.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are committed to supporting the entire NHS and social care workforce.
“We are incredibly grateful for all their hard work and dedication during the pandemic and we will continue to ensure all staff are rewarded fairly.”