Why I Support the Strikes
My downstairs neighbour is a nurse, and he is on strike.
He is not on strike because he is greedy – he is on strike because there aren’t enough nurses to run the wards, meaning that patients are in danger. The salary for a newly graduated nurse starts at £23k in a climate where energy bills can reach £3k without trying. Combined with the government’s abolition of the nursing grant, this means students are being asked to take on tens of thousands of pounds of debt to pay for their training, which will take decades to pay off, only to be offered minimal pay to work brutal hours in incredibly difficult conditions.
Consequently, my neighbour fears no one is going to want to be a nurse. And with 4/10 nurses and doctors potentially quitting owing to burn out in the next five years, this means patients are not going to be safe. People are going to suffer, and die, and this is why he is striking.
Teachers have a starting salary of around £28k, and the workload means most teachers are working 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday-Friday, then doing their marking on a Saturday and lesson planning on a Sunday, before repeating it all again in increasingly crowded classrooms full of children who are being pushed closer to the poverty line in schools which are struggling to stay afloat.
They are not striking because they are greedy – they are striking because there aren’t enough teachers to properly educate kids in a actual, decent educational environment. They want the kids to get the best from schools. From 2010 the Tories cut nearly 50% of local government funding – they just called it “local bureaucracy” instead of what it was – education, social services, local healthcare.
Firefighters – £24k as a trainee to walk into burning buildings. Police – £26k to spend your days dealing with humanity during the lowest possible times, in a service where the Tories, the party of law and order, cut 21,000 jobs at the start of their tenure, leaving the odds of having a crime against you investigated ever diminishing because there simply aren’t enough cops to do the job. Barristers can make money privately on corporate law, but get pittance for working legal aid cases – legal aid which has been gutted so that if you and your partner earn more than £22k per annum, you will not get support and will have to pay out of pocket to defend yourself in court, a process which could cost you £100k for private fees, which money you will not get back even if you are proven innocent. It could just be cheaper to plead guilty to a crime you didn’t do, assuming you even make it to court with a five year backlog on the service, and it is absolutely easier for barristers to say to hell with prosecuting and defending within the criminal system, because those cases won’t pay shit, leaving a justice system that simply does not work. To prevent that – to ensure a world where working in a court is an actual viable option – the barristers are striking.
Paramedics – £25k starting salary to save the lives of people in the streets, but also increasingly, to pick up the work left behind by the social care system and mental health services that have been gutted since the Conservatives came to power. They aren’t striking for greed – they’re striking because we need more doctors, more nurses, more beds in the NHS, and more paramedics, otherwise people will die. They are striking because there aren’t enough paramedics to do the job, and the hospitals are overwhelmed.
And at a time when the government tried to uncap banker’s bonus (average yearly bonus: £20k – not even salary, just the standard perk on top of it) why would young people choose to be medics? Why with a mountain of university debt and a cost of living crisis would people choose to burn out in a school, or be called “selfish” by the Home Secretary while working in a hospital?
This is the point of the strikes. It’s not about greed. It’s about asking the question: why does the government favour upping pay for investment bankers (£60k starting salary) or indeed themselves (base of £84k ignoring the comical expenses MPs frequently claim) while their own cabinet members wiggle around paying taxes on their literal millions (Prime Minister Sunak or Chancellor Zahawi) or are investigated for pandemic profiteering (Lady Michelle Mone) – how is that ok, while in the real world there are not enough doctors, nurses or paramedics to keep people safe?
It’s about making it possible for the next generation of cops and firefighters, barristers and teachers have the chance to choose those careers. It’s not about greed for those who are striking now. It’s about making serving the nation a viable option for the generations to come.