On the NHS workers’ strike rally at the Royal London Hospital  (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Hundreds of strikers from across London rallied at the Royal London Hospital on Wednesday in a major show of strength. 

Cleaners, porters, technicians and nurses who are part of the Unite union strike across all the Barts trust’s hospitals came together at last in one place. They were joined by doctors and consultants in the BMA union on the last day of their 72-hour strike. 

And workers from the East London NHS Foundation Trust—which provides community services—also came in delegations. One group of psychologists told Socialist Worker that for too long they had been reluctant to strike, but now the mood for action is spreading. 

A delegation of striking social workers travelled from Barnet so they could be part of the rally. 

And also at the protest rally were delegations from the RMT and Aslef rail unions and banners from local trades councils. 

Bringing together so many striking groups boosted morale and confidence—and inspired even those not on strike. That included a group of A&E nurses who recently left the RCN union and joined Unite instead so that they could strike. 

Lizzie, a BMA rep, caught the mood of the rally well and was often interrupted by applause. “I knew when I became a doctor 14 years ago that it was going to be a hard job,” she said. “I knew about the long hours and that I’d miss lots of family events. I’d probably be needed at lots of places at once and it would be stressful. 

“But that was a sacrifice I was willing to make because is such a privilege to become a doctor and to look after people when they are sick and vulnerable.” 

But she now felt the government was continually attacking her and everyone else in the NHS. 

“Ministers cut your pay and conditions and make the quality of care for patients far worse. That’s demoralising,” she said—but finished with a rousing call for more action. 

“We doctors are public sector workers, and we stand with everybody—porters, cleaners, ambulance workers, nurses, and teachers and social workers. And we are stronger together. 

“The government doesn’t value us. It values wealth and profits. And their people don’t use our services, like the NHS, so they don’t mind deliberately undermining them. 

“We have to keep up the momentum. We have to stay strong. And our message is that if you stand up, you can change things.”

All talk of how a united fight could transform health services was popular. And the unity on display at the protest could have been even greater if the large RCN and Unison unions hadn’t settled for such a poor deal over pay this summer.

Tabusam Ahmed, Unite regional officer said, “I’ve watched our members trying to pay their bills while getting ever more exhausted when trying to do their jobs.

“They are working in conditions that are worse than they have ever been and are sacrificing themselves to line the pockets of the rich.

“It should not be the norm to have to go to a food bank to feed your family,” she added, to echoing cries of “Rishi Sunak, shame on you”.

The east London strike rally, and the doctors’ protest at the Tory conference in Manchester on Tuesday, are a sign of the militancy among NHS workers.

Striking workers must keep up the pressure on both their own bosses—and the government. And everyone else should pile in behind them.

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