Watch: NHS workers rally in Birmingham as unions ballot for strikes. But will the public support a strike?

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Unions are currently ballotting thousands of NHS workers about strike action for better pay and to protect services

Here in Birmingham NHS activists have gathered to hold a rally demanding that the government takes action to defend the NHS and protect services.

Unions, including Unite, are currently ballotting thousands to take industrial action as workers struggle to provide optimal care as well as make ends meet.

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Nearly one in ten positions in the NHS are currently vacant. Unite claim that this is due to real terms pay cuts and the increasing pressure on workers.

The union is currently balloting thousands of workers across the UK and Northern Ireland to take industrial action. The past year has seen a lot of strike action across the country from different sectors causing a lot of disruption.

The NHS sees a backlog of almost 7 million people waiting to start treatment. So would the general public support NHS strikes in the current climate?

Jason Kirkham, a paramedic and Unite representative says: “We are losing staff because they can earn more in other areas. Our paramedics can go and work in other sectors without having to be on unsocial hours and earn more money, which is predominantly managed by private companies.

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“And our band-2 staff - so that’s our vehicle cleaners - they are on minimum wage. And come April next year they will be working below minimum wage.”

Jason Kirkham, a paramedic and Unite representative speaks about the struggles the NHS are currently facingJason Kirkham, a paramedic and Unite representative speaks about the struggles the NHS are currently facing
Jason Kirkham, a paramedic and Unite representative speaks about the struggles the NHS are currently facing

Debbie Wilkinson, Chair of the National Health Sector Committee for Unite the Union says: “I think if we get the message across in the right way that we’re doing this for the public, because, you know, we are NHS workers - but unless we’re paid properly, and we fill the vacancies and we retain the stuff that we’ve currently got, the NHS is not going to exist anymore in 5 to 10 years time. And so I do think if we can get that message across then people will support us.”

Debbie Wilkinson, Chair of the National Health Sector Committee for Unite the Union speaks about whether she thinks the public will support strikesDebbie Wilkinson, Chair of the National Health Sector Committee for Unite the Union speaks about whether she thinks the public will support strikes
Debbie Wilkinson, Chair of the National Health Sector Committee for Unite the Union speaks about whether she thinks the public will support strikes

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Stephen Barclay insists that the government has given NHS workers a proportionate and balanced pay increase that is fair for both nurses and the taxpayer.

He promises that in the event of industrial action, the government would ensure that emergency services continue to operate for those that need them most, but it would be inevitable some patients will have their treatment delayed.

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