Health workers in Northern Ireland are joining staff across the NHS calling on Rishi Sunak to recognise the work they’ve done to protect lives and fund a decent pay rise in this week’s Budget, says UNISON today (Monday).
More than 60,000 health care assistants, porters, operating theatre staff, nurses, caterers, ambulance staff, cleaners and members of the public have signed a letter to the Chancellor asking him to properly reward NHS staff for their work before and during the pandemic.
Staff want him to back a pay rise of at least £2,000 for all NHS workers, many of whom have put their health, wellbeing and personal lives on the line since Covid-19 struck.
In the letter, workers challenge Rishi Sunak to step up and do his bit, as they have. They argue a pay rise would show staff they’re valued, provide a much-needed morale boost for burnt-out workers and tip the balance for the thousands on the brink of leaving the NHS, the union adds.
A video accompanying the letter shows staff describing the intense pressure they’ve been under. Health workers in Northern Ireland give their accounts of working throughout the pandemic;
A phlebotomist describes her experience of working through the pandemic and her concerns about PPE: “It’s emotionally and physically exhausting. It’s scary, unpredictable and not what any of us could have foreseen. Wearing PPE is restricting and causes anxiety. The heat is unbearable, but we have no choice, we must do it to protect the NHS. Very often the actual PPE isn’t fit for purpose, so we stress about what protection we really have.”
Another member, working in Domiciliary Care, describes the additional pressure and stress she’s been under this year in her role caring for vulnerable patients and the fears she had of passing the virus on to her parents after contracting Covid in October.
A Senior Nursing Auxiliary tells the chancellor that NHS staff need recognition for all they’ve been through, and what the pay rise would mean to her: “We have been professional. We have been resilient. We have been proud to work for the NHS. A pay rise would mean so much to my family, my fiancée is on furlough and money has been tough. A pay rise might mean our wedding in August could still go ahead.”
UNISON Head of Bargaining in Northern Ireland Anne Speed said: “Health workers have been battling the pandemic for a year. That’s a year of incredibly long-hours, heightened anxiety around the safety of family and friends and fears about catching the virus.
“All while carrying out demanding roles and dealing with the trauma of many thousands of deaths.
“They’re giving their all to keep us safe. On Wednesday the UK Chancellor can and should give something back to them.
“Rishi Sunak must do the right thing and back up words of praise with concrete actions by funding a pay rise of at least £2,000 for all NHS staff.”