It has not taken long for the Conservatives to show how they intend to govern for the next five years.
Despite claiming to be the party of “hard-working people” in the run-up to 7 May, it seems the government doesn’t support hard-working people who aren’t paid enough to live on.
Last week’s Queen’s speech revealed that the government wants to make it harder for public sector workers to take strike action. Before the election, the Tories proposed a minimum voting turnout of 50% for those eligible to take part, plus a requirement for at least 40% of those entitled to vote to support a strike. Currently, unions can take industrial action with a majority vote, regardless of turnout. Under the new proposals, only the Royal College of Midwives would have legally been able to strike last autumn.
The proposals are cloaked in a desire to “save” public services from radical unionists intent on strike action. But if Mr Cameron and his cabinet had spent any time on the picket lines at NHS trusts, as the Nursing Times team did last year when the government refused to pay the 1% pay rise recommended by the NHS Pay Review Body, he would have seen a different story.
It’s not as though nurses and their public sector colleagues call strikes every Friday to get a longer weekend or just to make a bit of a fuss. I spoke to nurses who couldn’t afford to buy their own homes or go on holiday, or who were forced to work a ridiculous number of extra bank and agency shifts to feed their kids.
Nurses had not gone on strike over pay since the 1980s, and midwives had never been on strike in their 133-year history. These are not people who strike at the drop of a hat. They are people who need to take action to show enough is enough. And they had public support: car horns beeped, passersby cheered and I even saw people trying to give nurses money.
A strike is a necessary right. If the government were prepared to pay a decent wage, and listen to the NHS Pay Review Body and the unions, the right to strike would not be necessary. Sadly it is entirely necessary. Let’s hope this proposal does not become law. Write to your MP now to try to stop this right being taken away - before it’s too late.
Jenni Middleton, editor
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