Readers write in support of industrial action over poor pay by public sector workers
I asked my daughter, a nurse who is 30 years in the job and working on a very busy geriatric ward, what going on strike meant for her. “I will arrive just before 7am, leave at 7.30pm, and take my full 30-minute unpaid meal break,” was the reply. In other words, she will put in the hours she is paid for, instead of arriving 30 minutes early, eating a sandwich while dealing with phones and paperwork, and leaving when she’s satisfied everything is running smoothly.
For the last two years, her annual leave has been taken in two- or three-day snatches, whenever staffing allowed. This year, she is determined to take proper, much-needed, week-long breaks. Steve Barclay et al will not be working on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. She will. I jokingly asked: “Short of cash?” “No, short of staff,” was her reply. For too long the NHS has relied on the goodwill of its staff. Now, they’ve had enough.
I spent my working life in the police, mostly as a police officer and lately as a member of support staff. My sister spent hers in the health service as a nurse. I know which of us had the hardest job, most responsibility, lower pay and a lower pension. It wasn’t me. In the pandemic, my neighbours and I clapped for people like my sister.
At the beginning of the year I was awarded a 2.1% pay rise – about the same time as the nurses’ pay review body made its recommendation for their pay rise. My pay rise wasn’t anywhere near enough to meet the cost of living crisis, and later in the year it was substantially increased (in my case to 6.75%). The government needs to offer nurses what they gave me, and more besides.
How much longer will ministers parrot the lie that “there’s no money” to pay nurses, ambulance workers, rail workers and Border Force staff? There is plenty of money in this country, it is just in the wrong places (Call for wealth tax as UK billionaire numbers up by 20% since pandemic, 19 December).
Joseph and Mary had to trek to Bethlehem for the census so Caesar could tax them more effectively. Then, as now, taxes fell disproportionately on the poor. The baby who arrived on that occasion preached the revolutionary message that all are equal in God’s sight. A crucial way of enabling that is a fair tax system. What better Christmas present to the nation than a commitment to a wealth tax, reducing poverty, inequality and division at a stroke?
Rev David Haslam
Alan Innes’s suggestion (Letters, 18 December) that the government could use the £1.35bn unspent on nurse vacancies to improve the pay offer is unfortunately negated by the huge overspend (estimated at £3bn for doctors and nurses combined) already wasted on expensive agency staff. Much of this could be avoided with a rational staff recruitment and retention policy, and the savings used to pay people properly. Sadly, such a sensible policy is beyond this hapless yet rigidly doctrinaire government.
Dr Richard Carter
Tory attitudes to nurses’ pay were satirised in your columns in 1963 by Michael Frayn. He imagines a speech by Christopher Smoothe, minister of chance and speculation: “I’ve been looking at their preliminary report on wages in what we call the devotional field. Take nursing, for instance – a job that dearly requires unlimited devotion. Obviously the general principle here is to make the wages as low as possible to keep out undesirable elements who would otherwise pour into nursing just to make a fast buck. That’s obvious – though don’t think I’m not on the nurses’ side, bless their hearts.” Gavin Ross