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If you value our nurses campaign for them to receive a pay rise

Nurses from central London hospitals protest for international nurses day about the chronic underfunding of the NHS and other issues surrounding the health service outside the gates of Downing Street. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Don’t just clap in support of our carers. On International Nurses Day campaigner NINA DE AYALA PARKER calls for you to take action to campaign for them too.

Happy international Nurses Day! Underpaying NHS nurses should be ancient history. The undervaluing of nurses has lifted, with the nation’s clap – now so too should the scandalous pay cap and teeny, good for nothing pay rises.

Yes, the government has lifted the 1% pay cap and replaced it with a ‘whopping’ 6.5% pay rise over three years, which may sound nice, but is barely anything at all, and we mustn’t swallow the spin.

It’s important to remember that in 2017 Labour put forward a motion to unlock the 1% pay-rise cap for NHS nurses. However, nearly every single Tory MP, with the help from the DUP, voted against. The Tories then went on to jeer in that classic public school fashion – as the motion to end the cap on nurses pay rises was voted down. And it is those very same jeering, sneering Tory MPs who clap and praise the nurses who risk their lives for ours – on a salary three times less than every MP on the bench. If ever there was a time to put your money where your mouth is – it’s now.

Oh the sheer senselessness of those in power who attempt to justify their decision to prohibit nurses pay rises as ‘political’. Is it political to put a cap on a whole generation of nurses’ futures? I have friends who are nurses and have openly toyed with quitting because the job benefits simply do not outweigh the risks. Young 20 something nurses who pay £9,000 a year for a degree that used to be free. 20 something nurses who will struggle to get on the property ladder with their current salary in an already unforgiving property market. Young women, who watch our government clap for them, but not pay them what they deserve.

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Surely what has happened over the last few months is enough to justify paying nurses more. A pandemic… Tick. For the prime minister’s own life to be saved by NHS nurses… Tick.

Given hindsight, knowing now how indispensable, brave, compassionate, and skilled nurses are – how they saved the prime minister’s life. If Boris Johnson was able to give an honest answer to an honest question would he now support a pay rise?

Nursing is a science, to qualify one must have a degree in nursing listed under ‘sciences’. Yet, according to the government’s ‘point-based’ immigration policy, anyone who earns under £30,000 is ‘unskilled’. Nurses on an average salary of £23,000 are – by the government’s analysis – unskilled. Applying that same policy, all the nurses who saved Boris Johnson’s life at St Thomas Hospital would be deemed ‘unskilled’. I would give money to see Boris Johnson do a nursing degree and attempt a day on the job.

Nursing is one of the oldest professions – from Mary Seacole, Florence Nightingale and Mother Teresa. In fact, nuns were the first nurses, which explains why the Head Nurse is still sometimes referred to as Sister. However, modern day nurses are not required to take vows of poverty, which may come as a surprise to Jacob Rees-Mogg. And does gender play a role in this? Is the sky blue?

According to the Royal College of Nursing 89% of nurses and health visitors are women. A recent report on ‘Gender and Nursing as a Profession’ conducted by the Royal College of Nursing exposes the ‘old-fashioned view that caring for others is a feminine characteristic’ and has led to the curtailing of nurses’ wages and working conditions for generations. The report also found that women nurses are paid 17% less than their male counterparts despite women dominating the sector ten to 1.

It may come as a shock to know that nurses are not paid for the ‘risk’ they take, otherwise known as ‘risk pay’…and yet over 100 NHS health workers have already lost their lives due to contracting coronavirus at work. To not be paid for risk to life, is a scandal, an abomination, a violation of their human rights.

As accurately told by Maja Gustaffson, researcher at the think tank – The Resolution Foundation – ‘women, young people and the low-paid are most likely to be bearing the biggest health and economic risks from the crisis, which has shone a spotlight on the vitality of work that has been undervalued and underpaid for far too long,’

2020 is the year nurses pay rises will be increased to reflect their skill. Nurses must be paid more. If it takes a pandemic to make the nation realise the scandal of the past pay caps and tiny pay rises, then so be it. Coronavirus must be a wake-up call for the UK government. They must pay the people who save our lives equitably and akin to public servants who are paid twice as much, akin to other state-funded salaries like doctors – who they work equally as hard as, and help more frequently than ever before.

My friend, who has chosen to stay anonymous, is a nurse and has started a petition. By signing you are calling on the government to lift the pay cap and give nurses and midwives regular pay rises.

You can sign the petition here.

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