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From The Socialist newspaper, 19 November 2014

Workers unite to defend the NHS

The People's March for the NHS, London, photo by Bob Severn

The People's March for the NHS, London, photo by Bob Severn   (Click to enlarge)

Steve Bell, Buckinghamshire Unison (personal capacity)

NHS workers in England will once again be striking for four hours on Monday 24 November from 7am. This time the action has been stepped up as more health unions - eleven in total - will be taking part in the coordinated action over pay.

Unions estimate NHS workers' real pay has fallen by over 12% in the last four years. But this strike, although formally over a government imposed pay rise of just 1%, is also in opposition to reorganisations, underfunding, staff shortages, privatisation and cuts. The crisis at Colchester hospital is the latest to be in the news as a result of these 'reforms'.

Three years ago I confronted Prime Minister David Cameron in Aylesbury. He confidently told me that the health service budget was not being cut and there would be no NHS cuts in Buckinghamshire.

Since then we have seen wards close, staffing below safe levels, and bed shortages. Staff have seen pay reduced through cuts in local allowances or 'downbandings', plus increases in pension payments and car parking charges.

Health economists predict a funding gap of up to 30 billion by 2020. NHS employers envisage a 7 billion gap in funding to meet the needs of the ageing community. More and more hospital trusts are declaring financial difficulties.

Privatisation

All the capitalist political parties claim they will spend 'more on the NHS', but all agree with making 'efficiency savings'.

In Buckinghamshire NHS we have heard it all before. We have been fighting cuts, privatisation and marketisation not only under this government but also the last Labour government.

Health workers recognise that coordinated action by health unions makes us stronger. But we also need a renewal of coordinated action across the whole public sector. This could start with health workers coming out at the same time as firefighters.

To go alongside the strike action we also need to call a national demonstration in defence of the NHS in the new year, before the general election. We also need a new workers' party that defends the NHS, one that calls for:

The finance is there to fund the health service. What we need is a political party that represents not only the staff but also those using the services. One that is not in the pockets of big business.

That is why I, and many of my union branch members, back the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (www.tusc.org.uk).


For 24.11.14 strike reports, see:

NHS workers second week of strike action

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 19 November 2014:


Socialist Party news and analysis

Workers unite to defend the NHS

Solidarity vital to defend trade union rights

Leaked document reveals union busting plan

Toxic mix in Rochester and Strood byelection

Rotten to the Greencore

Fraudster bankers couldn't give a Forex

The beautiful game looking ugly

Them & Us


International socialist news and analysis

Unreported Nigeria: Class struggle and inequality

Israel/Palestine: Wave of rage answers new repression


Youth fight for jobs

We can defeat low pay and zero-hours!

Fighting for decent working conditions


Socialist Party workplace news

Labour councils attack organised workers

Campaigning against rail cuts and profiteering

Power station builders walkout over blacklisting

Local government unions accept shabby pay deal

Unison Wales FE strike ballot


Housing crisis

Raging tenants evict rich landlord

'We will not move!'

Students' victory in housing battle

Bedroom farce


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Teacher and health worker take fight to Oxford council

Bitterne walk-in's bitter win

NHS is going to the dogs


Readers' comments

Owen Jones: no answers

Socialism 2014


 

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