Nurses’ unity under threat

While nurses are being offered a pay rise that is in fact a pay cut those lucky lads at bust Barings Bank are to get a million pound bonus to peck up their spirits. Greedy British Gas boss Cedric Brown and his fellow directors have just slipped themselves a million free shares. They live in a world where the millions are just perks. The world is hard, but it’s fair. More than fair to a few: much less than fair to the rest

ON FEBRUARY 28 the Royal College of Nursing, Unison and several smaller health unions came together under rank and file pressure to forge a united front to fight their pay claim. That unity seems already under threat.

Christopher Cardwell and Maggie Dunn, representing Nursing and Midwifery Staff, say in The Guardian (March 4): “We have agreed to reject the government’s pay proposals and to campaign together to ensure all of our members receive a minimum three percent pay rise on April 1.”

This leaves open the possibility that they may accept local pay agreements. The RCN is also believed to be ready to accept local negotiations.

Local negotiations on pay and conditions will destroy nurses’ unity. Some sections of workers are bound to be left behind, but in the long term all workers will find their bargaining strength weakened. Communists have always argued that the largest possible industry-wide union representing all of the workers gives the class the best chance of protecting our interests against the bosses.

The government knows of the nurses’ reluctance to put the patients at risk and is ruthlessly taking advantage of it. Hospital staff need every weapon in the trade union arsenal to tackle this government and the unity to make their action effective.

In fighting for their own needs health workers are also fighting for the health service which everyone needs. The government wants to reduce the staff to cheap scullions so it can tempt private capital in to exploit our health for their profit.

At the same time the bosses’ own pay perks are continuing to soar. Despite the government’s feeble attempts at damage limitation, everyone can see that top employers and the Tories themselves are in it up to their necks.

But surely the Labour Party is beyond reproach? Not quite. Grenville Janner MP has just been referred to the Nolan committee - investigating ‘standards in public life’ - over the allocation of his £41,309 MP’s office allowance.

Apart from his MP’s pay and allowances, Janner ‘earns’ a cool £220,000 a year from his business interests. One of his consultancy companies is at present running a course entitled ‘Discipline and dismissal’.

‘Comrade’ Janner is the chair of the Commons employment select committee - currently grilling the heads of the privatised utilities about their excessive incomes!

Labour and Tory are both bosses’ parties, concerned only at holding down workers’ pay in order to jack up their own profits. Only a united fightback by workers can end the pay scandal.