Homerton hospital staff campaign for pay rise after working on coronavirus frontline
- Credit: Polly Hancock
NHS staff and supporters staged a socially distanced protest outside Homerton Hospital after being left out of a government pay rise announcement.
Protesters were demanding better pay for NHS staff particularly in light of their frontline efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.
Homerton healthcare assistant Veronice Goncalves said she was sent to take blood from people who had contracted coronavirus and was scared everyday, worried she might bring the disease home to her family: “I deserve a pay rise like everyone else because we saw things that are never going to come out of our minds.”
In July, almost a million public sector workers, including police, dentists and doctors, were granted an above-inflation pay-rise by the government but nurses, junior doctors and non-medical staff were not included in the plans due to a separate three-year deal agreed with NHS trade unions.
Occupational therapist Jordan Rivera remembered having “real sense of fear” during the lockdown as her and other key workers helped keep the country running.
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She said: “I don’t begrudge people at all who were at home during this time. We know that in this time, that for most of us NHS workers, our role was essential, we couldn’t work from home, and our patients couldn’t do without us.
“We aren’t asking for that to change.
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“What we never expected though, was after the entire country relied on us to help get through the pandemic, that we would be expected to just struggle on as we are, on pay that is not enough, and pay that been held down for the last 10 years.
“The current pay rise was negotiated way before Covid-19 was ever known about, and none of us knew what we would be going through.”
The government says it is expecting a review of pay from the NHS Pay Review Body for staff left out of the announcement.
It says staff were left out of its pay rise plans as a separate three-year deal, called The Agenda For Change national pay system, is currently in its third and final year.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson stated:“We are incredibly grateful for the hard work and dedication of all our health and care staff during the pandemic, and we will continue to ensure all staff are rewarded fairly.
“We are committed to supporting our NHS and everyone working in it.”
It says the Agenda for Change deal has already delivered year-on-year pay increases for NHS staff including a 12% rise in the starting salary for a newly qualified nurse.
The government added that its new People Plan aims to ensure the “right measures” are put in place to support and grow the workforce and it recently announced a further £3 billion for the NHS in addition to the promise of funding boost of £33.9 billion by 2024.
Naomi Byron, a Unison trade union representative at the hospital also spoke at the protest.
She added: “After all everybody has been through in the last few months the least the government can do is give a proper pay rise to all NHS staff.”