James Clayton, a reporter on the HSJ and Nursing Times news desk, spent yesterday talking to nurses and other health workers on the picket lines in London.
James asked them a range of questions on why they were on the strike and the Chancellor’s pay announcement. Here’s what they told him:
Heather Lewis, student nurse
Do you think that nurses should have the right to strike today?
“Absolutely. The same as any other public sector worker they have the right to strike and stand up for the services they offer to patients.”
Are you disappointed the RCN hasn’t balloted its members for the strike today?
What do you think of George Osborne’s announcement yesterday on public sector salaries?
“It’s a slap in the face for public sector workers, for people who work really hard. To announce it on the day before the strikes shows they don’t really care and they’re not really interested.”
Do you think any of the strikes are going effect patient care?
“I think it’s difficult for a lot of nurses who think that they shouldn’t strike and put patients in danger, but if it’s organised properly then there should be emergency cover and it should be okay. They should have the right to strike and the right to protect the services they offer.”
Mark Boothroyd, student nurse, St Thomas’ Hospital
Why are you striking?
“The raising of the retirement age is going to mean that our colleagues are forced to carry on longer in jobs they’re not physically fit enough to do.
“It’s not just about the pensions, it’s about the cuts, it’s about the austerity and it’s about privatisation. We realise it’s not just a fight about pensions - it’s a fight for the NHS.”
Do you have a message for the government?
“This is just the beginning.”
Emma Clossick, student nurse, St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington
What do you think of the strikes?
I think it’s unfair for public sector workers to take the brunt of the government’s cuts. We wanted to show solidarity on a day when workers across the public sector are coming out and protesting.”
Do you think the RCN should have balloted their members to strike today?
“I would have liked the chance to show support through industrial action on the same day as workers across the public sector to make the biggest impact and to show that we are challenging public sector cuts across the board.
“Nurses don’t wish to strike because they want to care for their patients. But being disillusioned with the NHS is having an impact on patient care.
“I think it’s quite shameful to ask the public sector and nurses to pay the price for our current situation. We already have a situation of understaffed wards and overworked nurses. So on the one hand the pension cuts are not going to make nurses feel properly valued and at the same time we have cuts to the NHS which are going to make the situation worse.”
Clare Fletcher, midwife, St Thomas’ Hospital
Why are you striking today?
“I am striking because as a midwife my role is to look after women and these pensions cuts adversely affect women. Women have babies and are more likely to work part time so changing from a final salary to a career average will have a massive impact on women and there’s no way we can make up the lost years.
“It comes down to a choice. Do we look after our children or do we come back to work in order to not live in poverty?
“I think the RCM have a duty to look after their midwives. They should have balloted their members to strike today.”
What do you think of George Osborne’s announcement on salaries yesterday?
“It makes me reel. How much more are public sector workers supposed to take? Why are they not putting up taxes for bankers? They should be looking at the banking industry to address the issue, not the public sector workers.”
Penny Williams, speech and language therapist, St Thomas’ Hospital
Why are you striking today?
“The bigger picture is that there is an ideological change against the public sector. They [the government] are intent on destroying the NHS. Part of the reason for being here is taking a stand against government actions against the NHS as a whole.
“I think that’s true of many workers here. It’s bad enough that we’re experiencing pay freezes and then they attack our pensions!
“It’s so unequal. We’re becoming more and more unequal and this government is promoting that.”