Around 300 NHS staff from Unison, Unite, the Royal College Of Midwives and other unions gathered at the Oxford Road entrance to Manchester Royal Infirmary for the second day of strike action over NHS pay.
Staff included nurses, radiographers, ambulance crew, midwives and other NHS workers and they were beeped and tooted at in support by drivers of cars on the busy main road entrance as they passed the picket line. There was overwhelming public support for the strikers.
The staff’s message was unanimous to the government, stop ignoring the Independent Pay Review Body and pay the 1% pay rise.
Marie Stokoe, a scrub nurse at the Manchester Royal Children’s Hospital, said she didn’t strike in October as she was ill last strike day, but had been incensed by the criticism of strikers on social media and felt compelled to join their ranks this time, even though she’d just finished a busy night shift.
“People say we only went into nursing for the pay, well how ridiculous – we do this job because we care. I sometimes do operations for 14 hours and don’t get a food, drink or toilet break. I can’t afford to buy a house and I haven’t been on holiday for five years. I do not get paid enough to afford to live.”
Her colleague, Steph Green, also a scrub nurse at the same hospital, agreed that the trust was overusing people who could still work, while many of her department was off sick.
“My message to Jeremy Hunt is to acknowledge us and if more people come out we can get that acknowledgement. Other people can afford luxuries that we just can’t.”
Zenib Hameed, a scrub nurse in the same hospital, has been engaged to her partner for two years but can not afford to save for her wedding on her wage.
“Hunt has had an 11% pay rise, so why can’t we?”she asked.
“I hope this makes a difference, because people like me are disheartened about this sort of thing. We have to do overtime to make ends meet, and we have no work life balance.”
She cautioned that many of her friends in the NHS had moved abroad and more would do so if pay freezes continued.
Ms Green said: “We feel connected to the NHS because they supported our training but we can’t afford to live like this.”
Adam Howell, a 32-year-old anaesthetic practitioner in children’s theatres, says the only holidays he has had in the past five years have been those paid for by his parents. He is surviving by sub-letting his flat and last month did £500 in overtime to make ends meet. “Even then my income is only just £5 above my outgoings,” he said. “If my bills go up anymore, I can’t afford to stay in this job and I will have to sell my house,” he said. “I have no savings.”
Rhydian Williams, staff nurse in intensive care at Manchester Royal Infirmary, says that the strike is “trying to draw a line”.
He said “We’re seen as a workforce that is a pushover, but we want to be there for the patient. The headlines are about pay, but the staffing ratio on the wards has deteriorated rapidly in the five years since I qualified on the wards, although not where I work as I am in intensive care, but this shows how much we are ignored.”
“I feel if we don’t do something they will chip away at increments and unsociable pay and we have to stand up against this.”