This morning for the first time in 30 years we will see paramedics, nurses, midwives and doctors take strike action for 4 hours as Westminster deemed our NHS staff not to be worthy of the below inflation public sector pay rise of 1%. This comes at a time when reports have shown that, despite living in a time of relative economic prosperity, wage repression today is on par with Victorian times. The NHS stand out in the cold, wind and rain begging for something that should have been given whilst David Cameron, George Osborne and the rest of the MPs complicit in this structured dismantling of public services gorge themselves in the warmth at Westminster. They should stand disgraced.
Pay is not the only Victorian social ill we have today as we are also witnessing the return of rickets in our children through malnourishment. A damning consequence of the ideological austerity running throughout this country.
In the last week I spoke with a care nurse who explained in-depth the lengths with which management teams were going to discourage workers from engaging in their lawful right to withdraw their labour. They have been told that they cannot picket, cannot walk with placards, with other carefully worded emails all designed to scare the workforce. Clear examples of corporate level bullying and harassment that we have come across and been made aware of throughout a number of professions on a much more frequent basis than you would imagine.
The clear agenda behind wage repression within the public sector is the desire to privatise it. Two key barriers to privatisation are staff terms and conditions and pension liabilities. This comes directly from a government think tank on outsourcing and privatisation and it is something we should all be very concerned about.
When we discuss privatisation of our health care we automatically think of the American system but we do not have to go as far as that to find alarming examples. In Ireland they do not have a national health service and a recent trip there highlighted to me just how dangerous the privatisation of our NHS will be to us. An average 2.4 children family explained how it cost €100 to go to A&E without a referral from your GP, it costs €50 to see your GP and you must have medical cover if you wish to see your GP in the same calendar year and that costs €2000 a year for the four of them. I was shocked. In my ignorance I had just assumed that the NHS was a model adopted by the Irish and makes me all the more concerned about the future of the NHS for today’s children. They will be the ones left paying the price for our inaction.
So today’s strike is an important step in the future fight against privatisation which is already on our doorstep, if they break the NHS staffs resolve over a 1% pay rise then all else will be given. If they think that the people who depend on the NHS do not care then the attacks will be relentless until their resolve is broken. It is not just their fight today, it is all of our fight. The NHS saved our lives at our births and will fight for us time and again between now and when we die. The least we can do is #StandByOurNHS in its hour of need.