Stand by our NHS

NHS-Kevin-Maguire-cartoon
Today marks the start of ‘Britain needs a pay rise’ campaign by unions, lead valiantly by our under appreciated NHS staff who today took the unwanted decision to strike.

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.

Occupy: The philosophy of we won’t go home

Philosophy of occupy
Noam Chomsky on pressure and protest

“The philosophy of Occupy scares them (the government) the philosophy of we will not go home!” The Artist Taxi Driver at the last nights assembly at Parliament Square where a group of humans have been occupying land in a visceral demonstration of how democracy isn’t working in the UK.

This week we have seen the UK position itself just to the right of China, with its rules, regulations and byelaws that are impeding people’s rights to protest and hold corporate state to account. At Occupy Democracy (now dubbed the #TarpaulinRevolution as police ripped up the groundsheets people were sat on in the rain from under them earlier this week) the private enforcement group of ‘Red Caps’ have even found a bylaw which prevents someone from playing an acoustic guitar which was not the  Live Music Act 2012 and made their feelings known as those playing renditions of hallelujah receiving some hard words being served notices.No acoustic guitars allowed

Police Privatisation

Watching Boris Johnson’s private security firms give orders to the police we pay to protect us was a very sobering site. A piece of string attached to a sign and a bag to stop it blowing away was deemed to be a structure and so the red caps ordered its removal for believing it to be against the law, holding lengthy discussions with the MET Police about removing it. A woman was disturbed by the corporate mouth pieces for looking as though she was sleeping in a position of comfort under a tree, another law broken. One child no older than 3 started kicking a ball which hit a police officer by the fence which has been erected around both Winston Churchill and Parliament Square, I wondered whether there was a bylaw for this too and warned him so as I scooted passed on my way home.

We now live in a county that claims to have great freedoms of speech, expression and beliefs and yet a country with as chequered a history as China for those very things is seemingly more tolerant of the sight of sleeping bags on their streets or a tarpaulin to keep the rain off your head. They have even allowed tents.

Protestors have the luxury of a tent 'structure'
Protestors have the luxury of a tent ‘structure’

The size of the problem can be reflected in the comparative coverage in our news. Every day for the past few weeks the Occupy Hong Kong story has featured countless times online and in print news, yet a demonstration of equal importance in our own backyard has gone mainly unnoticed by our media as the image below shows.  The upside is that there are people there on the ground covering events as they unfold in real-time. There used to be a time when the mainstream media was accessed to verify news on the social media, today it is very much the other way.

Disparity UK
Disparity UK

Each day at Occupy Democracy has had a different theme and a selection of fine speakers, not least Russell Brand and Ken Loach as well as Vivienne Westwood and Caroline Lucas MP to date. If you are passing through the smoke before Sunday you would do worse than to stop by and catch a flavour of what is being discussed; it is peaceful, colourful and educational. Even if you were not planning to head to London, make the exception and catch the final day on Sunday.

You can visit the Occupy Democracy website for daily themes, schedules and updates and if you want to see what Russell Brand had to say about the right to protest you can see him on last nights Newsnight https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqsFp0J22Hc