Where are you at with the campaign to get you reinstated?
The campaign started when I was first suspended June 2007] for bringing the Trust into disrepute. We had 700 people on strike for 14 days of action, followed by further action in November. My appeal was turned down and is now going to an employment tribunal. MPs will be asked to sign [Early Day Motion 443 which calls for my reinstatement and there may be further days of strike action. We’re trying to persuade Alan Johnson to sign the motion. It’s ironic that I am being supported by Stephen O’Brien the Shadow Minister for Health, and not his opposite in the Labour government.
Is the return to work something that can keep the campaign alive?
The campaign is not going to fizzle out. I have received an incredible amount support from my colleagues and many others. People are worried about the Health Service; there is a fear of speaking out and a number of health workers are saying they’re glad that I did. One of the questions I was asked by the management was ‘what loyalty do you have to our organisation?’ I said I have plenty of loyalty to the patients, but what they wanted to know was what corporate loyalty I had to the individual trust. The aim of my suspension was to break our union, but now we have seven more Unison stewards than at the start. The fight to stop staff cuts in our service, the campaign that led to my suspension in the first place, has been won – the managers have conceded they will keep the original staffing levels.
During the campaign you brought in many activists from the Trade Union movement and the left. How was this achieved?
One of the first things we recognised was that we needed to mobilise political pressure from the outside. There was a deliberate strategy of including trade unionists and service user groups and networks. We have fought to get users heard. They overcame the stigma of mental illness and have been articulate in their defence of the service. We made an effort to write to every Unison branch to pass information on and particularly helpful were the CWU and RMT unions who made donations to the campaign and invited us to speak at their meetings.
Regarding the NHS in general what would you say are the key issues?
One of the key problems is the tendering process. It identifies areas of work, for example, hip replacement operations and parcels them off. The idea is to create a competitive market within the Health Service. South Manchester Psychiatric Unit is run by a Private Finance Initiative that uses a private contractor to clean the ward and it costs the NHS four times what it did when the work was in-house. Also more of the work is target-driven.
As an NHS employee how would you say working conditions have changed during your career?
When I started 25 years ago we provided a service to patients. Now targets are the be all and end all and we can no longer prioritise in terms of need.
On the other hand 25 years ago nurses’ wages were worse because they were less unionised. But with this slight improvement in wages has come a greater workload. The pace is unrelenting. For example occupancy rates are much higher. Now there are 20 beds for 24 or 25 patients with occupancy rates at 120 per cent to 130 per cent. This leads to stress amongst the staff and patients.
Would you recommend a job in the Health Service to people?
I love the work and the people I work with are fantastic. If you do a job that is helpful to others it is generally more satisfying. But more time is spent filling out forms and battling bureaucracy. I would say ‘do it’ but you’ll have to fight your corner.
Michael Moore’s documentary Sicko gave an overview of what a privatised health system looks like in the US, is that something that could happen here?
Nothing is automatic about the NHS. People who fought in the Second World War weren’t prepared to go back to the provisions available in the 1930s. Unlike the Tories, this government dresses up privatisation in complicated proposals. They don’t say they will privatise it but they are in effect creating a market – they’re saying that 15 per cent of the Health Service should be outside the NHS. Not only has the NHS management chosen private operators to run aspects of the service but now private companies are set up to do this on their behalf.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill