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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Pay the Nurses, fund the NHS

NURSES ARE gearing up for a “summer of action” over pay following the Government’s derisory three per cent award that the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said amounts to a cut after inflation is taken into account. The RCN is organising demonstrations across the country and a consultative pay ballot in the run-up to its annual conference in September. Unison and the British Medical Association are also sounding out their members on future industrial action for higher pay.

Whilst the Tories bleat that their award is higher than the initial one per cent they offered in March, it is still well short of the 12.5 per cent demand from nursing staff or the similar demands of the GMB and Unite, who also organise workers in the health sector.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson came under attack this week after he tried to dodge being ‘pinged’ for self-isolation – a day after announcing that so-called vaccine passports would be required for entry to nightclubs, concerts and other large public events from September.

Meanwhile the knives are out for Johnson following a Tory dip in the opinion polls, which his rivals say is down to Johnson’s incompetent handling of the lockdown lifting. The latest YouGov poll put the Tories down six points to 38 per cent last week, just four points over Labour, whilst the minor parties – the Liberal Democrats and the Greens – also gained three points at the expense of the Conservatives. On this basis a general election would produce a hung parliament dependent on the whims of the Scottish nationalists and Northern Ireland’s unionist parties.

Some Tory backbenchers say that momentum is growing to ditch Johnson in favour of his Chancellor, Rishi Sunak. But this may be premature. Sunak is undoubtedly a very ambitious man – but he probably still needs a few more years in high office before reaching out for the premiership and he certainly needs to reach some sort of understanding with the Remainer grandees to secure a seamless succession.

This should be a golden opportunity for Labour to regain lost ground by backing the health workers to the hilt. The Corbynistas have pledged full support. But all we’ve got from Sir Keir Starmer are some mealy-mouthed words about fair pay for nurses. Starmer said the three per cent offer was “not fair” – but he refuses to endorse the union claims or to say what he thinks would be “fair”.

Millions of working people are eternally grateful for the dedication and sacrifice of the health service workers who are on the front-line in the battle against the coronavirus plague. Opinion polls show that most of them support the nurses’ demands. But far from heeding the voices on the street, Starmer would rather go down the road of the Blairites and Zionists to pursue pointless vendettas against tiny Trotskyist sects in the mistaken belief that this will give him some street-cred with northern workers and chalk-up some more brownie points with what is perceived to be the dominant wing of the ruling class.

The entire labour movement needs to close ranks around the NHS workers’ pay campaign to force the Government to respond realistically to their just demands and to provide concrete solidarity if they are forced to take industrial action later in the year.