This callous, cowardly, catastrophic Coalition (consisting of the tyrannical Tories and limp, lying Lib Dems) are up to their old tricks again, tricks we have been getting use to after four years of this greed led Government. This has been the first time in history that Midwives have taken industrial action including striking, along with seven other Unions. This was direct action meant to give the Government a swift kick in the nether regions. This was meant a message to Jeremy Hunt, George Osborne and our persecuting Prime Minister, son of Thatcher, David Cameron, that enough was enough. So what pushed health worker within the NHS to strike, to picket with union banners and even cardboard signs held high above their heads in the pouring rain yesterday? So what was so unreasonable that these narcissistic politicians refused point blank even to hold discussions with the unions, representing our wonderful nurses and health care related workers? Was it that these health based Public Sector Workers wanted massive rises in pay and unreasonable improvement to working conditions? Was it that these nurses, known for their radical views and industrial action at the drop of a hat (NOT!), wanted to retire at 45 on a massive pension, whilst the rest of us are told to work until we are so old we turn to dust (saves burial I guess)?
The answer is that they want an extortionate 1% rise in pay that was decided as reasonable by an Independent Pay Review Panel set up by this Government. Yes just 1% pay rise! 1%! I think it is important to bring some perspective into this, some background context at this point:
- Most private health companies and organisations have reported that their staff have been getting pay rises averaging around 3% in the last 12 months;
- Using my wife as an example, who is a 30 year veteran of the NHS, a Community Nurse, she has not had a pay rise in 4 years and that is not uncommon across the NHS;
- This effectively means that with other national budgetary & cost of living rises, most nurses have become on average £1,600 worse off in the last 4 years, as have many of the public;
- Senior management pay in the NHS has risen faster than those on the frontline;
So why aren’t the nurses and the NHS staff as a whole not getting the 1% recommended by the Independent Pay Review Panel (IPRP)? They didn’t get the 1% because Jeremy bloody Hunt and his cohort of evil Right Wing, corporate owned, moronic colleagues in the Cabinet overturned the decision of the IPRP, refusing to give them any pay rise at all. This was met with utter outrage by the unions but more important the general populous of the NHS had had enough! Even though the Coalition claim that the NHS funding has been ring fenced, the reality on the frontline of patient care is one of rising workloads, increased stresses, less resources, more targets, more duties & hours worked without pay/overtime, just to make sure the patients get the best they can give in a system that is falling apart at the seams. So when the IPRP finally recommended a pay rise the nurses may not have been dancing on the wards but they did think perhaps a corner had been turned after 4 years of Coalition mismanagement. They were wrong! The Government had set the IPRP for all Public Sector Employees, making a commitment to abide by their decisions, as its formation meant and end to the awful annual negotiations for pay awards, which often went on for months. However, even though the Government had assured all the unions they would abide by the decisions if they would (which the unions have), the Government said that there wasn’t enough money in the budget and that the 1% would not be given.
This was the straw that broke the camel’s back, the nurses were outraged that the Government would lie and deceive them in this way (the rest of us would be less surprised perhaps, the Tories and Lib Dems lying, surely not! I have two words to say, Tuition Fees!). Again this is probably a good time to put a couple of other facts into context that just poured petrol on this raging fire of resentment now burning uncontrollably:
- The IPRP set up to review the MPs’ pay has awarded them 20% over the last two years (strange the Ministers didn’t overturn this decision);
- This gave MPs a massive pay hike on a salary that already starts at £75,000 and annual expenses anywhere from £100,000 to £250,000;
- Ministers are paid much more than the £75,000 starting point and most of their expenses and living costs are covered by the Department they are a Minister of;
- Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) get even more and in some cases there are UK MEPs that are claiming expenses in the £millions;
- There isn’t a nurse working in the community or on the wards that earns the sort of money a new MP gets (who do you value more, an MP or a Nurse?);
Most commentators stated that in their opinion the Government didn’t think the nurses would go through with it, well they were wrong, YET AGAIN! There is more industrial action planned as it would seem that this is the only thing the Government listens to, as nearly all Public Sector Workers have found out. As with these peers (public employees) the Nurses have seen the relentless march of the Coalition to break up the NHS and have the private sector take over. This has led to redundancies and increased unemployment within the sector, with many of the most experienced nurses opting to leave for much better paid jobs in this emerging private sector market place, with an increase in nurses going to Australia, Canada, USA, etc., to live and work, a loss to the NHS and also the country. The more cynical of us, and I freely admit I am amongst them, suspect that the Coalition are up to their same old tactics. These tactics have been seen in community services, Fire Service, NHS, even the Helicopter Air Rescue Service, which was formally operated by the Royal Air Force. The tactics we have seen the Coalition use time and again are:
- Run the public service down;
- Starve the service of investment;
- Increase targets & expectations beyond what the service can cope with;
- Demoralise the staff & watch as they fail to cope;
- Watch until stress levels are so high that high levels of sickness are running out of control;
- Use the media to highlight the mistakes and errors of the service;
- Use phrases such as “Not fit for purpose!”, “An inability to change or improve quality!” for example;
- Blame the previous Government for the mess the service is now in;
- Split the service up into smaller chunks and claim it is for greater service user “focus” or to increase “engagement”;
- Then take these service chunks and quietly put them out to tender, to be taken over by the private sector;
It may also be worth noting that this has been going on in the NHS for 4 years on a huge scale, which is accelerating as we get closer to the General Election, as if the Government wants to get as much of the privatisation done as they can. This will make it near impossible for the next Government to reverse this privatisation even if they wanted to. It is equally worth noting that the people financing many of these private companies, which are snapping up chunks of OUR NHS, like a shoal of Piranhas finding freshly diced meat, causing a feeding frenzy, also happen to be significant donors to the Tories. What a surprise! ! ! ! So the pre-2010 election promise of Cameron, “The NHS is safe in our hands” was utter nonsense. Cameron should have said “the NHS is to be broken up and sold off to our mates and you Plebs can’t stop us, so tough!”! This is what has and is happening and there are people making personal fortunes out of our ill health, £billions are being made by private companies from our suffering, from a service that was never meant to make money, OUR NHS! This was the Tory strategy from the outset, to make their friends richer than they already were anyway, and by so doing senior Tories secured their post Parliamentary careers on many of the Boards of companies benefiting from this strategy. It’s a ‘gold-rush’, a boom time for the well connected rich, as if having £millions upon £millions wasn’t already enough.
The Lib Dems have acted as facilitators in this wholesale sell off of the NHS (and many other Public Services), even if they are trying to distance themselves from the Tories in the run up to the General Election – TOO BLOODY LATE! Without their votes, without their support, the Tories could not have taken this destructive approach to the NHS, so they also share the blame. I find it horrifying to think that the NHS as we know it will not exist if this Government is elected again. Indeed the NHS and Welfare State are the last great achievement of Attlee that still remain, a modest man who positively influenced every aspect of post war Britain. What do we get, the most destructive Prime Minister since Attlee’s Government, even more toxic than Thatcher, even when Thatcher was PM she never hacked off the nurses enough to make them strike. Attlee nationalised public services and utilities, to preserve and protect them for the public, the poor and the rich alike, and only the NHS & Welfare State still exists. The Coalition are only motivated by greed and looking after themselves! Both of Attlee’s remaining achievements, envied by the world’s other nations, are on their knees thanks to just 4 years of this Coalition of rotten, putrid millionaires sitting round the Cabinet table at number 10 Downing Street. If they get a second term we will see charges rolled out to see your GP, to use Casualty, charges if you use an ambulance, increased prescription charges and even compulsory private health insurance (again many owned by Tory backers).
So yes I support the nurses and NHS staff’s strike and even their planned actions in the future, as it is only by doing this will their voices be truly heard, but just as importantly it shines a light into the problems and political behaviour I have outlined above. Time support our wonderful NHS Staff, as they have supported us whenever we have needed them, time also to fight to save the NHS!
Yours most sincerely
Smiling Cat Ventures (www.smilingcatventures.org)
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