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: www.rcn.org.uk/employment-and-pay/pay