LONDON >> Hundreds of health care workers rallied in British cities today, demanding that the Conservative government acknowledge their hard work and dedication during the coronavirus pandemic with a hefty pay increase.
In London, demonstrators — most wearing masks and observing social distancing — marched to the gates of Downing Street, the home and office of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, chanting, “Boris Johnson, hear us shout! Pay us properly or get out!”
Britain’s medical workers have been hailed as heroes during the pandemic by both the government and the public. But some say a decade of public spending cuts by Johnson and previous Conservative prime ministers has left the state-funded National Health Service struggling to cope.
A placard carried by a protester in Glasgow, Scotland, said “Enough empty praise. (Give us) a fair raise.” Another read: “Who saved you, Boris?”
Johnson himself contracted COVID-19 and spent three nights in intensive care at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London. He later thanked the staff there for saving his life.
Nurses, care assistants and junior doctors are angry that they were left out of plans to give an above-inflation pay raise to almost 1 million public sector workers because they have a different contract with the British government.
Dave Carr, a critical care nurse at St. Thomas’ Hospital, said working through the outbreak was “the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life and we’re all exhausted.”
“We’re on our knees, absolutely on our knees. And on top of it they give 900,000 public sector workers a pay rise — and I haven’t got a problem with that — but they carve us out,” he said. “I’m absolutely fuming. Tired and fuming. We’ve had enough.”