On Saturday 8th August 2020, healthcare staff across the UK gathered in cities and towns to call for pay negotiations to be opened immediately for NHS workers.

My opening speech for the Birmingham event is below:

We’re here to talk about pay.

Those who work in the NHS have never done so for the fame and the glory, and certainly not for the money; it’s often a thankless task of being there for people through the worst of times. We’ve spent decades with overstressed systems, poor workforce planning, constant reorganisations and cuts to services. Just last month reports showed how demoralised, undervalued and exhausted nurses are – we can’t do the job we’ve aimed for and trained for. One third of nurses are so fed up that they want to quit – right when the country needs them most.

How do you get NHS workers to stay in their jobs? You train them well, you treat them well and you pay them well. The UK government has failed on all three counts.

From their cobbled-together chaos affecting our students, to the lack of career development, to the increase in pension contributions, to their duplicitous and dishonest portrayal of the last pay agreement, to their fantastical promise over recruiting 50,000 nurses, to their utter failure to provide PPE and protect our lives, they have failed to provide for the health service that’s been our nation’s greatest achievement, and our life’s work.

Our pay was frozen when the ideological austerity plan was dropped on us. Prices kept on climbing, and our pay didn’t keep up. Since 2010, every NHS worker on Agenda For Change has lost out on thousands of pounds every year. When we account for the increased cost of living, if you were top Band 5 in 2010 and you’re still a Band 5 now, your pay has dropped by over 20% – an unwarranted slap in the face for our most experienced staff.

And the result? In England alone, more than 100,000 NHS posts unfilled. They’ve made serving the public and caring for the most vulnerable another hostile environment.

This is not fair, it is not just, it is not OK.

Our goal today is to call for negotiations on pay to be brought forward, and for a fair pay deal to be agreed with our unions.

A fair pay deal with new money; a deal that reflects our true worth.

No gimmicks, no tricks, no restructures, no cuts to services, no messing with pensions, terms or conditions.

A pay deal of 15%.

Let’s get this done.

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