By Edd Donovan, social worker and Unison member
As a social worker employed by the NHS I went out on strike alongside my colleagues this week. Standing there in the pouring rain I began to reflect and consider why I had felt so impelled to join the industrial action.
Personally, I like my job; I am content with my wage and my quality of life. However, it is such complacency and apathy that I despise in modern day society (here’s a song I wrote about it), and find myself forever on high alert of ever falling foul to its personal and communal decay. I am not a leader and sadly I know but a few, but I try to follow my heart, and my heart led me to make this stand with my Unison colleagues on the issue of fairness.
Firstly, there is a fairness issue about the government’s pay offer to NHS staff. The ‘1% pay rise’ they keep talking about was only offered to people who were at the top of their pay band. It left the majority of us and our lower paid colleagues with nothing – this is something that I know only adds to the negative morale that currently exists in the NHS. Also, having had our pay frozen since 2009 we have effectively seen our pay cut in real-terms as we fall further and further behind inflation.
But there are wider issues of fairness too. Inequality continues to grow at an alarming rate – I read recently that the richest 85 people in the world had the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population. I am tired of seeing the government attack public services at the same time as showing support and reverence for financial institutions that aim to dismantle our communities and liquidise our countryside as a way of making their own, selfish fortunes.
Monday was my first involvement in a strike. It was also nice to see the support from non-Unison members who came out and provided us with tea and coffee. It made me wonder why all the different unions can’t coordinate their efforts and stand together? This week’s action may go unnoticed by the governing elite. But I know I really felt empowered by taking action and felt united on the picket line with my likeminded fellows.
Edd Donovan works in mental health and, alongside his day job, is a folk singer whose songs are influenced by his social work experience.