Greater Manchester Police (GMP) have today dispersed a protest being staged by health workers in the city centre, breaking up the rally and arresting attendee’s.
The rally – which was peaceful, small (by design) and socially distanced – was organised by health workers to draw attention to the pathetic 1% pay rise being offered to nurses by the government. The Royal College of Nurses have said that the low pay rise may lead to a chronic shortage of nurses as the pandemic continues to impact the NHS, making the job harder and more dangerous. Health unions have called the suggested pay rise “insulting”, and there is talk of possible industrial action. The rally was also attended by a delegation of striking bus workers in solidarity.
It is also worth noting that once again, GMP have highlighted where it is they stand when it comes to the fight for fair pay, and the wider struggle for workers’ rights. Throughout the pandemic the police have positioned themselves as being stood alongside the rest of the public sector. They have fought to establish a ‘shoulder to shoulder’ image between themselves and the NHS. Today they have proven that when the press conferences are over, when the pandemic photo opportunities pass, the police are the same barrier to workers’ rights that they have always been.
GMP’s excuse for breaking up the rally is that it breached coronavirus restrictions. Current government advice on protests during the pandemic demands that social distancing be adhered to, travel to and from the protest must be done safely, and proper health and safety equipment like masks should be used. The rally met all of these conditions, but that apparently didn’t matter to GMP.
0161 offers it’s unconditional solidarity to health workers in the struggle for fair pay. NHS staff have been on the front lines of the fight against the pandemic for over a year, and it is nothing short of criminal for the Tory government to look to make savings by offering an unfair pay rise. The silence from the Labour Party – allegedly the party that stands up for workers – is also inexcusable. The economic impact of coronavirus has left the country struggling, it’s true. But if we can find money to pay GMP’s overtime budget when it chooses to recreationally breaks up safe, peaceful rallies, then we can find the money to pay NHS staff what they deserve.
It has never been clearer that working class communities must organise to protect ourselves; from the pandemic, from the police, and to defend institutions like the NHS from the politicians.