On Behalf of Gus and Millions Like Him – Pay Our Carers Properly

Dealing with the passing of a close family relation has occupied much of my time over this last ten days or so. My father-in-law Gus was like a second dad to me and I loved and respected him dearly.

He was diagnosed with aggressive liver cancer some seventeen months ago on top of the cirrhosis of his liver discovered some six months earlier. The health team explained the seriousness of the situation but remained upbeat and recommended some invasive treatments that could slow the progress of the cancer. Like the brave man he was, Gus accepted the treatments without fuss and right up until his last days remained stoic and thankful for the 83 years he had lived and the wonderful wife, two daughters and three grandchildren he had been blessed with.

Gus Healy lived a long and eventful life. From the poverty of sharing a bed with three brothers in a small single-end dwelling in Govan to conscription to Malaya with the British Army. From the shipyards of Govan to the elderly care home duties he performed for over fifteen years. He was a big man with a huge heart who received love and respect from all who knew him.

Gus died on August 20th but because of the Covid-19 restrictions his funeral could not be held until August 31st and only twenty family members were permitted to attend. It has been a stressful and sad period but one thing that has resonated with the whole family was the incredible compassion, caring, skills and professionalism of our health and care services. Others may have different experiences but ours has reinforced a million times over the priceless and essential nature of the National Health Service and the associated care services.

First Class Care from Workers Badly Treated By Callous Tory Hypocrites

Gus received first class care and secured at least a year longer on the planet with us entirely due to the care and attention he received from surgeons, nurses, consultants, and his wonderful GP from the Govan Health Centre on Glasgow’s southside. Over the last few months, I was his designated family companion under the restrictive Covid-19 conditions and attended several hospital and GP appointments. The whole health care team of medical secretaries, hospital porters, cleaners, and auxiliaries merit commendation for their essential contributions to the best healthcare system in the world but the professionalism and compassion of his consultant and GP was simply incalculable.

The fact so many nurses and other NHS employees have experienced deep cuts to their living standards over the last ten years of Tory/Lib Dem imposed austerity cuts makes me sick to the pit of my stomach. The Tory gangsters who effectively steal a massive pay cheque from the public in the form of inflated and unjustified MPs salaries and expenses packages applauded and cheered cutting the wages of already low paid nurses and other health workers in 2017. It was stomach churning.

These hypocritical hyenas and buffoons recently applauded the NHS each Thursday evening, as long as a camera was nearby to capture their duplicitous posturing, during the Covid-19 inspired #ClapForCarers initiative. Yet their actions in Parliament have ensured those very same nurses and carers are condemned to survive on inadequate wage packets almost 10% lower than they should be due to cruel public sector wage caps.

MPs Salaries Have Increased 8 Time in Last 10 Years

If the fact MPs salaries have increased eight times in the last ten years while the real terms salaries of nurses and carers have been slashed doesn’t make you angry you should check your chest cavity for the presence of a heart and your brain for evidence of a conscience.

In 2010 an MP’s salary was already over-generous at £65,738 but today it stands at an outrageous £81,932 and unlike nurses and health workers they don’t pay for their travel costs or food consumption. The public picks up that tab for the pampered and spoiled MPs along with their second home scam.

Since clapping for the nurses and carers Boris Johnson’s Tories have scrapped free staff parking at hospitals, cancelled students nurses permanent work contracts early, excluded nurses and other health workers from the proposed public sector wage increase and sought to blame care workers for Covid-19 deaths in care homes. Their failures to provide adequate PPE supplies, impose lockdowns earlier and introduce a proper test, track and trace scheme are why thousands died from Covid-19 unnecessarily. Care workers and NHS staff have done all they could in difficult and stressful conditions. Many risked and lost their lives in the line of duty.

Care Workers and Health Staff Must Receive Substantial Wage Increases

While Gus’s health deteriorated at home the daily intervention and care from the Glasgow City Council care team was Herculean. The wages these care workers are paid is pathetically inadequate in relation to the care and duties they perform. The role of care workers in our communities and within elderly care homes has been thrown into sharp focus during the Covid-19 pandemic and the requirement for a radical transformation in pay, conditions and delivery of service is now urgent. Alongside a publicly owned and well-paid NHS with motivated and trained staff we need a publicly owned and similarly well paid, trained, and motivated Care Service that delivers care in the community and within care homes. Such a national care service must be an immediate priority in the independent Scotland many of us are fighting to deliver.

Rank and file nurses and health workers have recently mounted a series of rallies and demonstrations while maintaining safe distancing measures in support of a 15% wage rise demand to lift these essential workers back up to were they would have been had their wages kept pace with inflation over the last ten years. That is a campaign worthy of active support and the trade unions representing these workers must get their act together and lead from the front. The GMB union appears to be willing to recognise the justice of the case and the other big unions have to fall into line as well.

Similarly, with care workers we should be arguing for a minimum wage for carers which reflects their essential contribution to society. A £15 an hour minimum wage for care workers is easily affordable in a society that thinks nothing of bailing out billionaires during the Covid-19 pandemic and bankers during the 2008 financial crash that their own greed and mismanagement caused.

Bankers and Billionaires Bailed Out – Now Pay Carers Properly

Even the rabidly anti-trade union Times newspaper was compelled to carry a piece recently which exposed the reality of billionaires being bailed out by the ordinary taxpayer:

“More than 50 large companies have tapped the Bank of England’s Covid-19 bailout scheme for more than £16 billion in cheap funding, including Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and luxury goods maker Chanel.

Many of the groups that have seized a lifeline from the Bank are controlled by billionaire families and overseas multinationals. The largest recipient is BASF, a German chemicals group that employs just 850 people in the United Kingdom, which has borrowed £1 billion”.

If bankers can be bailed out to the tune of £1.2 trillion in 2008 and billionaires like Richard Branson living in tax havens can receive billions in Covid19 bail-out packages then a proper living wage for all health workers, nurses and carers is the minimum we can expect. Nurses and health workers should receive the real wage increases funnelled into the healthy bank accounts of the MPs and the MPs should from now on receive applause instead of wage rises. Let us see how they like it.

Millions just like Gus need the NHS and the wonderful care it provides. In his memory I will certainly resolve to support the campaigns for proper pay the essential carers need. If we don’t value those who make the NHS the lifesaving and life enhancing service that it is it will slowly but surely whither and the Tory plans to introduce private healthcare will proceed. All health workers and carers deserve a proper living wage that reflects their value to individual users and society as a whole. Rest in Peace Big Gus.

Posted in Articles, Tommy Sheridan's Columns.

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