SNP under pressure as thousands of NHS workers join protest – ‘COVID hero, pay rise zero!’

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The demonstration in Glasgow Green held banners and signs along with two-metre lengths of blue ribbon to highlight social distancing. The action also took place in Edinburgh on Saturday morning with signs reading “enough empty praise, geez a fair raise” and “COVID hero pay rise zero”.

It comes as many NHS staff were excluded from the wage increase for around 900,000 public sector workers announced a couple of weeks ago because they are in the final year of a three-year pay deal.

Campaigners have asked Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman to begin pay talks for Scottish workers as health is devolved to the SNP led Scottish Government in Scotland.

Another 30 demonstrations have been organised in towns and cities across the country – including, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield against similar decisions by Westminster to exclude NHS staff from certain cuts.

These included one in London’s at St James’s Park before marching along Whitehall to Downing Street and ending with a rally in Parliament Square.

Senior Nurse Melanie Gale who runs a COVID-positive ward with an “under-staffed hard-working team”, helped organise the event in Glasgow.

She said: “It was scary times not knowing what was happening – we were in the middle of a pandemic and our NHS workers stood on that front line and gave their all.

“I saw on Facebook we needed to organise for Glasgow and I knew how big this was going to be.

“They’re an amazing bunch of people that have all got together, all the organisers, to make today happen in two weeks. 

“We’re here today to say we have had enough, we deserve our equal pay. It’s 10 years of not being given a proper pay increase for the jobs we do.

“I’d like to thank the public, our speakers and everybody else who has come out today. There are 33 cities today protesting about this and I’m just so amazed.”

MSP Monica Lennon, Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman, also showed her support at the protest and told the crowd: “People call you heroes but you don’t have superpowers, you should be getting paid a fair pay for the job that you do, the job that you’re trained to do, your expertise and your skills – not just a pat in the back or a clap on the doorstep every week.

“We need to make sure that your work continues to be recognised and properly remunerated so you have our full support.

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“Warm words don’t pay the bills – we need to get these pay talks underway.

“We know in the months ahead we’re going to have a very difficult winter on our hands.

“Aside from COVID pressures, there are all the other pressures that are on the NHS.

“It’s very poignant to be here to stand amongst you our healthcare workers because you have lost some of your own in this battle.”

Ms Lennon asked the Health Secretary about the issue in July and Ms Freeman said she had asked NHS Scotland and unions “to work in partnership to examine options for arriving at pay settlements for both the immediate and longer-term”, although a timetable has yet to be agreed.

In response to the protests, a Scottish Government spokesperson told “The COVID-19 pandemic is having an unprecedented impact on those working in our NHS, and we are hugely grateful for the extraordinary hard work, dedication, skill and commitment of all those working in NHS Scotland during this emergency.

“This year nurses in Scotland received a 2.95 percent pay rise as part of our three-year NHS Agenda for Change pay deal.

“This has meant a minimum 9 percent pay increase for most staff, and with some of those still moving up their pay scale seeing increases of up to 27 percent.

“This is in excess of the 2.8 percent uplift announced for NHS dentists and doctors in England and Scotland.

“We have regular engagement with staff and unions, where all issues related to NHS staff terms and conditions are discussed. As we are now in the last year of the three year deal, we are working with NHS unions to agree a timetable to secure a new pay deal for 2021-22.”

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