Ruth Bailey on the fight for fair pay

 Ruth Bailey 11 Aug 2020

Not much will keep me away from the beach on a hot summer’s day, but this Saturday’s protest march for justice for NHS pay in Brighton was one such event. I am incensed that nurses – who  have worked for years in the most challenging of conditions with inadequate staffing levels, and who have in recent months been publicly lauded for our dedication, commitment and care –  have still not been recognised with the pay we deserve. Nothing was going to stop me making some noise. 

The Brighton pay protest event was organised by a local practice nurse, an activist for ‘NHS Workers Say NO! to Public Sector pay inequality’, and was open to all. There was a fantastic turnout from nurses across the board, and we were joined by NHS staff, patients and local campaigners defending the NHS. It was brilliant to be part of a crowd all intent on demanding the pay rise we deserve. The mood was dynamic as we marched slowly from the Royal Sussex County Hospital through the city, wearing masks and keeping social distance, shouting various slogans like: ‘Boris Johnson, shame on you -, We deserve a pay rise too!’.

It was brilliant to listen to the noise of car horns and cheers of support from the crowds. We exchanged greetings from RCN branches attending similar events around the UK and we were thrilled to receive a personal tweet from local MP Caroline Lucas with a message of solidarity. 

Branch Chair Joey Holland and I were proud to wear RCN T-shirts and wave ‘Voice of Nursing’ placards, making us visible to members that we did not know. It was a good opportunity to make connections, talk about our branch and answer questions about the RCN. It really underlined the importance of seizing every chance to get out and about. The march finished at a park in the centre of town and the protesters gathered to hear a variety of speakers including our branch Chair. Joey spoke passionately about the need for us to work collaboratively with other Unions to negotiate a meaningful pay rise that gives realistic reward.

Our nursing community has been incredible over the months of the Covid-19 crisis. In the Year of the Nurse and Midwife we have surpassed ourselves caring for the critically ill, the bereaved, the separated and the suffering.  We have learned new skills, we have refreshed old ones, we have shielded, we have been redeployed, we have come out of retirement, we have put our studies aside to rise to the challenge. We have lost members of our nursing family and we have been devasted by the impact of Covid-19 on our BAME members. We have experienced unprecedented rates of sickness and an epidemic of stress, anxiety and poor mental health. This crisis is not over. Normal services have yet to be restored, our workforce is fragile and still we face a second wave. Our battered workforce is simply not sustainable, and it will be a national outrage if we are not paid our worth.

We have the public on our side and now is the time to channel that support into our political discussions. We have to talk to our members, our representatives and our MPs. We must harness public support and be visible, connected and prepared. It's time to flex our collective muscle and demonstrate the power of our nursing voice.

Ruth is writing in her capacity as Brighton and Hove Branch Secretary, not on behalf of the Women's Health Forum.

Find out the latest on the RCN's campaigning for nurses' pay and how you can get involved:

Ruth Bailey

Ruth Bailey

RCN Women's Health Forum member

Nurse team leader

Ruth works in sexual health and contraception and has contributed to developing the integrated sexual health service where she works in Brighton providing a one stop shop for clients.

Page last updated - 11/08/2020