Underpaid, over-stretched nurses may down tools in response to the insulting offer of a 1% pay increase: a below-inflation award that amounts of a real-terms pay cut. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is canvassing its 270,000 members across the Britain on whether to take strike action.
This would come as another blow to the Tories from radical health workers, only six months after a national junior doctors’ strike was called following Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s imposition of unsafe working hours on trainee medics.
Tory pay restrictions on the NHS since 2010 have resulted in a 14% real-terms pay cut for nursing and other support staff, leaving a vacuum of unfilled nursing posts as prospective applicants are hesitant to apply, given the miserable state of pay and working conditions.
This issue is exacerbated by the government’s decision to scrap NHS bursaries for student nurses and midwives, a move which was opposed by the nationwide Bursary or Bust campaign.
The RCN has never before supported a full strike; this latest, unprecedented move reflects the dire straits faced by nurses and other health workers brutalised by Tory austerity. The results of the ballot will be announced at the RCN’s annual congress in May.
Student nurse at King’s College London, Dan Langley, said the following:
“This is a historic turn for the RCN, one which I fully support. If we ballot for a strike, the next step has to be to build outside of the RCN, link up with other exploited workers in the public sector and beyond, and really hit the Tories where it hurts.”
It is abundantly clear that the NHS has no future under capitalism. The Tories will continually soften it up in preparation for further privatisation by underfunding hospitals and cutting staff wages. This is demanded by the crisis of capitalism, and eagerly encouraged by the government’s capitalist cronies, who are eager to get their hands on the lucrative business opportunities presented by for-profit healthcare.
The Marxist Student Federation stands in unequivocal solidarity with nurses and health workers, and encourages them to take the fight to the Tories ‒ beginning with industrial action, and from there building for a unified strike across the public sector (with the support of the radical youth), and then a general strike that will halt the capitalists in their tracks.
For the future of the NHS: nurses, students and workers ‒ unite and fight!
By the Marxist Student Federation