NHS staff demand pay rise and end to privatisation in Millennium Square protest

Protesters gathered in Leeds city centre today to demand a 15 per cent pay rise and an end to privatisation of the NHS.

Saturday, 3rd July 2021, 5:05 pm

NHS staff and supporters gathered in Millennium Square on Saturday, July 3.

The rain did not deter them, as they listened to impassioned speeches from staff and union leaders, as well as listen to live music.

The protest aimed to rally against the privatisation of the NHS, call for safe staffing levels, and ask for a restorative pay rise of 15 per cent.

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Protesters gathered in Millennium Square, Leeds city centre.

Organisers said this is in response to NHS workers losing 20 per cent of their pay since 2010.

Anthony Johnson, 28, a community nurse from Meanwood, said: "All NHS workers need to have a substantial pay increase.

"At the moment we have thousands of vaccines in the NHS. It is putting our care at risk."

Speaking to the crowd, Eleanor Hewitt, a services coordinator for Leeds hospitals and a representative of the Union branch, said: "It's ridiculous this one per cent offer and that's not even been agreed yet.

Will Collins, 25, a medical student at the University of Leeds.

"It's insulting to us.

"We have worked day in, day out through a pandemic.

"I speak from my own experience having to go in every day, sending my kids to school every day throughout, having to use public transport to get there, putting us at risk, and what am I getting for it? Nothing.

"My real pay in the last 10 years has dropped dramatically and I'm just doing extra work and this is the same for colleagues all over the Trust and all over the country.

Protesters were calling for a pay rise and an end to privatisation of the NHS.

"We have nurses and clinical staff being put at risk having to work in other areas that are not their speciality and clinical support workers getting paid band two wages, which is a pittance while doing really difficult work.

"For admin staff such as myself and colleagues, the workload is not reducing it's getting worse and patients are running out of patience when they are ringing us asking when their operations are going to be.

"The problem is we are not going to fill these vaccines if we don't have decent pay and decent terms and conditions.

"This is where we need funding from the Government".

Protesters in Millennium Square.

Neil Taylor, 47, a clinical nurse specialist from Wakefield, said: "126 of us are dead before their time because of a lack of PPE. 850 health and social care workers are dead because of exposure to Covid.

"One per cent - did we give one per cent effort? We didn't - none of us did.

"I want 15 per cent for all key workers, whether you're in a care home, sweeping the streets, driving a bus or saving lives in that building there [The Leeds General Infirmary] - everyone.

"We have been there. We are the servants, we are prepared to serve and we want paying."

Will Collins, 25, a medical student at the University of Leeds, said: "It's been quite rough over the last year. For a long time, I felt I was a spare part in a hospital and didn't get much patient contact because of Covid.

"People go into medicine because at the end of the day they want to help people.

"If we are going into an NHS that has been systemically dismantled and being sold off to the highest bidder, what does that leave us to do?

"When we go into a hospital we believe that healthcare should be free at the point of access, but in 10 or 20 years what will it look like if it keeps going the way it is going?

"I want to fight for a public NHS and to fight privatisation and actually fund it properly.

"The only way, in my opinion, to stop the reversal is to overthrow capitalism and implement socialism where the NHS and public services are funded for the good of the people rather than the profits of big business."

Katy Heppinstall, a nurse in Leeds and Nurses United member, said: “Throughout the past 18 months we’ve all seen how essential our NHS and its staff are.

"Whether it was supporting our mental well-being, delivering our first baby or holding your loved one’s hand in their last minute, our NHS workers have always been there, it’s just that now we can all see what happens when we don’t have enough because they’ve been underpaid and cannot stand working in fragmented and privatised services that don’t allow us to care.

"We need a new deal for our NHS that puts patients not profits back in control of our services.

"We all deserve the freedom to be healthy.”

The Government recommended that certain NHS staff, including nurses, should receive a 1 per cent pay rise.

NHS staff were due the pay rise in April, but ministers said they would await the recommendations of the pay review body, which is expected to deliver its report within days.

The response to the 1 per cent pay rise has been met with anger from NHS staff and unions, with protests held across the country.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said it has spent months pressing the Government to deliver a “fair” wage uplift for the NHS’s most senior clinicians. while the Royal College of Nursing said new Health Secretary Sajid Javid should not “insult nurses” by giving them just one per cent.

Pat Cullen, acting chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, told BBC Breakfast: “We understand that the Pay Review Body – the body that recommends the pay award for health care staff including nurses – may very well be in his in-tray this morning.

“And what we’re saying to him, please don’t insult nurses by awarding them a 1% pay award.

“That just will do nothing to try and hold on to those fantastic nurses that we’ve got in our system, not one of them can we afford to lose, but it also would attract [more nurses], and [attract new] nurses into the system.”

Mr Javid needs to make a “national recovery plan” for the health service, including tackling the nursing vacancies, Ms Cullen said.

“His most important priorities for nursing at this point in time is to put a national recovery plan in place for nursing that addresses the nursing workforce issues – the tens of thousands of vacancies that we’ve got right across England – which really can’t continue,” she said.

“And we did see that through the pandemic where nurses felt that they were approaching the pandemic with one hand tied behind their back. Those vacancies need to be addressed.”