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Angry health workers march on Downing Street to demand pay justice

ANGRY health workers were set to march on Downing Street last night to demand a proper pay rise.

As the Star went to press, NHS staff were gathering at University College and St Thomas’s hospitals to demonstrate their rejection of the government’s “grossly inadequate” 3 per cent pay offer.

Health unions have demanded an increase to make up for more than a decade of Tory cuts that have seen real pay reduced by as much as 19 per cent and are consulting members on their response, with industrial action firmly on the agenda.

The march, organised by the Unite union’s Guy’s and St Thomas’s branch, was expected to attract widespread support.

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said the union was fully behind the protest and he believed the public “shares our disgust at this paltry offer which reinforces our resolve for pay justice.”

He said: “3 per cent will do very little to staunch the escalating recruitment and retention crisis. 

“It is estimated there are 100,000 vacancies in the health service and very little in the way of a plan to recruit the numbers needed.”

Mr Jarrett-Thorpe called on new NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard to ensure that any pay rise is fully funded by “new” money from the Treasury, rather than being taken from existing already stretched NHS budgets, as the government intends.

Keep Our NHS Public campaign co-chair Dr John Puntis said: “Many staff are now experiencing depression, anxiety, stress or burnout that has been worsened by the pandemic.

“A workforce plan for the NHS is urgently needed and has to address the problems of current massive vacancies and ongoing difficulties with recruitment and retention. A significant pay rise must be a key element of this plan.

“It is not only affordable — it puts money back into the economy — but also essential in making sure the NHS can continue to provide care for us all, both during and after the ongoing pandemic and when tackling the huge backlog of accumulated work.”

Earlier this week Labour’s shadow employment rights secretary Andy McDonald acknowledged that NHS staff needed a 12 per cent rise “to put them back in the same position they were in” in 2010.

Last week a petition of more than 800,000 people demanding a 15 per cent increase was presented to the Prime Minister by health workers and supporters, including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

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