Making their case for a pay rise – local key-workers meet their MP

‘Disheartened and used’ was how one frontline NHS worked described how he felt when he and a number of colleagues met recently with local MP Sally-Ann Hart.

Paul Jones, a porter at the Conquest Hospital, said: “With the NHS pay rise delayed, I feel disheartened and used. Considering that it was key workers who kept the country going. So all those claps were for nothing.”   

Locally Hastings and District Trades Union Council have joined the national TUC campaign to get a fair deal for key workers. 

“During the pandemic key workers never stopped. When the shelves had to be stocked, retail workers were there. When hospitals were at breaking point, nurses, doctors and other NHS staff were there. When children needed support and care, teachers were there. While many of us stayed at home, key workers went to work and risked their lives to take care of all of us,” says Jonathan Lee, Secretary of Hastings & District Trades Union Council.

…the detrimental impact of the pandemic on workers at the front-line will be evident for a long time…

He says that after decades of ‘going unnoticed’ the Covid-19 pandemic has ‘pulled back the curtain’ to reveal just how much we rely on nurses, care workers, retail and delivery workers, public transport workers, teachers and support staff, cleaners, energy workers and so many others.

“From rainbows in our windows to clapping for carers and helping out our neighbours it has been amazing to see how the pandemic has brought the best out in people, showing how we can pull together and look after each other,” says Mr Lee.

“But we know key workers need more than applause and appreciation. They need action. They need a pay rise.”

Key workers are calling on the government to give them a pay rise at next week’s budget on March 3rd. All across the country, the TUC has been arranging meetings to ask MPs to listen to the experiences of key workers and support the campaign by signing an open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak.

This week an online meeting was arranged with Hastings and Rye MP, Sally-Ann Hart, to give key workers in the constituency the opportunity to share their experiences of working through the pandemic. These included NHS staff from the Conquest Hospital, Community Mental Health workers, tutors, transport workers and others.

Mr Lee says: ”We were very grateful and appreciate that Sally-Ann took the time to hear the personal experiences of key workers from Hastings and Rye.  However, it is disappointing that Sally-Ann ultimately decided not to sign the open letter in support of key workers.” 

Mr Hart has, however, written separately to the Chancellor to pass on the concerns of those at the meeting and take forward some of the individual issues raised with her by the workers. 

Mr Lee says: “The overwhelming message I got from the meeting is that the detrimental impact of the pandemic on workers at the front-line will be evident for a long time.

In particular, I have deep concerns about the mental health of key workers and the feeling that they are not valued.  Action is needed now to ensure that those who have supported  us all are rightly rewarded.”

Rachel Gordon, a NHS Mental Health PA , said: “I am so proud and grateful for all of the key workers who participated in the meeting with our MP.

“I am thankful that she took the time to listen to us when so many of her colleagues choose to not even give us the time of day.

“I hope that the continued effort of the supporters will be enough to convince the Chancellor of the importance of this pay rise and the impact that it will have on both us as key workers plus, the benefits to economy itself. ”

Simon Hester, former Health and Safety Executive Inspector, said: “The government say they want to ‘build back better’. That will just be warm words and propaganda unless key workers in the public and private sectors get a serious pay rise.”

The Office of National Statistics estimates that in Hastings 33.1 per cent of the workforce are considered to be key workers It has been calculated that there are 3,785 key workers within Hastings and Rye and if they do not receive even a small 2.4 per cent pay rise, the loss to the local economy amounts to £3,107,978. Key workers, spend locally and support local businesses. They are such an important part of the local economy.  

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