England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

“Pay us what you owe us!” Unions must prepare to coordinate industrial action

Who really runs society?
During the pandemic we’ve seen it’s not the rich, who have hidden away in their mansions, but it’s the delivery drivers, the hospital porters, the bus drivers, the nurses, the shop workers, the junior doctors, the refuse collectors and all the other key workers who have kept people alive and kept things functioning.

For weeks, our communities recognised the need to clap for carers. Even Tories felt compelled to join in. But, as many NHS workers have pointed out, you can’t pay the bills with claps. After a decade of pay cuts, many health workers are as much as 20% worse off in real terms, while private companies continue to coin it in from NHS privatisation.

The current three year NHS pay deal, enthusiastically backed by some union leaders, is not delivering. Most workers only received a 1.65% uplift in April this year, despite risking their lives during a global pandemic. Is it any wonder that there are recruitment and retention problems in the NHS? We know that it has been the solidarity between colleagues that has banded people together and got us through the PPE shortages, the first wave of Covid and kept the wheels turning despite years of cuts.

What kind of fightback is needed?
Now we and our colleagues need to build on that solidarity to create a movement for decent pay and funding for the health service. The Tories are not going to gift us anything and have shown they don’t respond to gentle persuasion. The working class had to boot them out of office in 1945 to be able to establish an NHS!

We need to fight for a minimum 15% pay rise to begin to make up for the money stolen from our pay packets over the years. This movement needs to be built, ward by ward, hospital by hospital with committees established in every workplace, along with rank-and-file control over the demands and negotiations.

We can begin with a vibrant day of action on the 8th August, but we must also be prepared for escalating the campaign quickly. It may be necessary to take industrial action to win the money you deserve and we need to prepare the ground now in the event that happens.


  • Immediately re-open pay talks! The government cannot continue to sit on this crisis while claiming they ‘support health workers’.
  • Unions must ballot for industrial action! Strike and organise for a 15% pay rise. Reinstate annual increments.
  • We need a socialist health system! Renationalise the NHS, kick out the private companies and bring all staff back in house. Only a system based on public ownership and democratic control of key sectors of the economy will be able to guarantee decent pay and healthcare for all.

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