Striking nurses on the march earlier this month (Picture: Guy Smallman)

I was hugely disappointed to read that leaders of health worker unions pushed back on mass strikes on 1 February because they feared negative publicity.  There’s been a bombardment of negative news stories about the NHS strikes but people aren’t stupid. They understand what’s going on. 

During the nurses’ strike, we had better staffing during the action than normally because of minimum staffing levels agreed beforehand. The health unions are worried that united strikes are going to damage support for it. I get it, they’re scared—we haven’t had this level of strikes in the NHS for a long time. But we so need to take action. 

Health workers are meant to be there for our patients but how can we be there for them when the conditions are so awful?  Ideally I’d like to see any many workers out together as possible, although there are certain logistical challenges in the NHS. 

In my union, the British Dietetic Association, an overwhelming number of people voted to reject the pay deal in a consultative ballot. But the turnout was low. There’s talk of dietitians receiving a lump sum instead of a proper pay deal. But when you take into account tax, National Insurance and pension contributions, a lump sum becomes pointless unless it is absolutely massive. 

Something like £1,000 is not going to do anything. The only option we have is to keep pushing to ensure our unions don’t concede on this.  It really feels like something is happening now—this is the first time our union has declined such a big pay offer. Previously the union accepted it, even though there was an argument that we shouldn’t. 

We need to be causing disruption every day. We need to build on the momentum and not let it go to waste. 

Katherine Igidbashian

Southampton

Protest problems

There has been some positive coverage outside Israel of demonstrations held in Tel Aviv against the new far right coalition.  Unfortunately, I think it’s unfounded to see promise in these protests exerting any pressure on the regime or effecting any significant change on behalf of Palestinians.

It is true one of the organisations behind the protests, “Standing Together”, raises demands for Jewish and Arab “equality”.  But the protests split in two over the expression of even moderate support for Palestinian rights. 

The liberal section insisted that “purist” demands to end the occupation or in support of “Arab rights” should not be raised and that establishing “democracy” had to come before the Palestinian issue. Even “Standing Together” discouraged open displays of support for the Palestinians. 

Its organisers revoked the slogan “March of Hope: This is Home for All of Us” to an even more anodyne “Protest Against the New Government”.  And when one marcher raised a solitary Palestinian flag, it attracted wide condemnation. 

The settler-colonial population of Israel has adopted ever more open expressions of state racism and support for apartheid in the face of Palestinian resistance  And it is there that the challenge to this racist state, and freedom for the Palestinian people lies—from the river to the sea.

Rob Ferguson

East London

Don’t rely on census data for whole truth

I’ve just seen the recent results from the 2021 census, the first to include a question about sexual orientation, and I think it raises some questions. It’s raised a few eyebrows that some 7.5 percent of respondents declined to answer the question about sexual orientation. 

And some 6 percent of people didn’t write down their gender identity. It’s important to ask who is posing the question here—the census serves the government, which is no friend to LGBT+ people, and is particularly transphobic. 

So people may not want the Tories knowing that information. Or respondents may live with people they don’t trust, so can’t answer truthfully.  The census tickbox questions also reduced gender and sexuality to very binary choices—but  in reality they can be very fluid. 

Jonathan Sanchi

South London

Maths plan will leave poor kids behind

Rishi Sunak’s plans to make maths education mandatory for all students up to age 18 will not improve maths literacy. It will only make further education even less accessible to working class students. As it stands, 75 percent of students receive a grade 4 to 9 in their maths GCSE. And the biggest factor as to whether a student passes their GCSEs is their parents’ income. 

I am studying maths at university. This was only made possible because during school my dad had the time to help me with my homework.  Other students with wealthy parents were able to afford tutors to help them when they were struggling. Students from low income families or those whose parents are working long hours don’t have this help. 

Already many 16-18 year olds are under pressure to start earning money to support their families.  This pressure will only increase given the cost of living crisis.  By creating further barriers to working class students accessing further education, Sunak is continuing the cycle of poverty. 

Eddy Dalzell

Liverpool

Royal crisis is opportunity

For revolutionaries to dismiss the royal family crisis as a soap opera is mistaken. The monarchy plays a crucial, if hidden, role in maintaining the British capitalist state. Its functions are not ceremonial but are reserved for when the state is threatened. 

Revolutionaries should not stand aside and watch, but widen the cracks of a key institution of capitalism. 

John Curtis

Suffolk

Energy firms are scrooges

I have a smart meter and noticed over the Christmas and New Year period that my energy usage seemed to be unusually high at about £5 per day.  But on 4 January, all of a sudden, we were back to spending under £2 per day.   Surely the energy company wouldn’t up its prices over the festive period, would it?

Caroline Yates

Glasgow

Reeves is a hypocrite

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said that Labour will sort out the cost of living crisis that is catastrophic for the working class.  Her recent photoshoot in The Times newspaper suggests that she personally is not suffering any financial hardship. She is wearing designer dresses that sell for £1,050 and £990 respectively and her sandals a mere £1,225. 

John Gilmore

Bishop Auckland

Victory at crown court

I’m delighted to hear that four Insulate Britain activists have been found not guilty of causing a public nuisance when they occupied a roadblock on the M4. The jury only took four hours to return their verdict. It shows that, even in a court of law, ordinary people can be won to the necessity of climate action. 

Janet Dyer

East London

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