NHS workers on strike outside Southmead Hospital, Bristol on November 24th 2014 by Tim Lezard Hundreds of thousands of NHS workers today took strike action after the government refused to give them even a 1% pay rise. USI News editor Tim Lezard visited …

Tim Lezard
NHS workers on strike outside Southmead Hospital, Bristol on November 24th 2014

NHS workers on strike outside Southmead Hospital, Bristol on November 24th 2014

by Tim Lezard

Hundreds of thousands of NHS workers today took strike action after the government refused to give them even a 1% pay rise.

USI News editor Tim Lezard visited the picket line outside Bristol’s Southmead Hospital and spoke to some inspirational – and desperate – union members taking action.

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Mandy Robinson

Mental health nurse, UNISON steward for Concorde Health Branch, Mandy Robinson said: “For the last four years we’ve had a pay freeze and the pathetic one per cent we’ve been offered on this occasion is simply not enough for our members to meet our needs.

“Bills are going up, the cost of living is going up, our pay has been frozen and we’re struggling, basically. There is a real feeling of solidarity, amazing support from members of the public, coming in and out of the hospital. It’s a shame we have to do it. We’d rather be at work, but we’re here in the cold because we feel we have to do it.”

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis warned of more strikes to come. Is it likely? “Yes,” Mandy replied. “It’s got to the point now where we’re pretty desperate and we’ll do anything really.”

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Adam Birch

Healthcare assistant Adam Birch, also a UNISON member, said: “It is difficult to afford to live. I used to be a builder a while ago and I earned considerably more then. I can’t afford to have a car at the moment. There’s not a lot of spare cash left at the end of the month, so I take any spare shifts I can get.

“All that is detrimental to your own health at times, feeling stressed, not having enough money. I became an HCA because I wanted to do something that made me feel a bit better, but I’m not  rewarded by the NHS and the pay structure. My staff team is brilliant and that’s what keeps me going.”

Susan Hughes (in the middle, wearing a hat)

Susan Hughes (in the middle, wearing a hat)

Midwife and RCM member Susan Hughes said: “This is only the second time I’ve been on strike. It’s a really difficult decision and we felt quite sorry we had to resort to this but we all feel very passionately about the way we’ve been treated by the government and enough is enough.

“People are very angry, not least because it affects women and it’s time to make a stand because as women, looking after women, it’s really important to protect women’s rights.

“The situation is such that it is has reached the point where we’re working very, very long hours, unsociable hours, working night shifts and working through breaks but we’re not able to leave because of the nature of the job. We can’t leave women in labour because that would be inhumane. It leaves is us in a difficult position and we feel very vulnerable and we feel exploited by that.”

Members of nine unions – Members of the British Association of Occupational Therapists, GMB, Managers in Partnership, POA, RCM, SoR, UCATT, UNISON and Unite – took four hour’s strike today and are working to rule for the rest of the week.


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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