Almost 900,000 public sector workers, including doctors, will be given an above inflation pay rise backdated to April it was announced last month, but this did not include more one million NHS staff such as nurses, cleaners and care assistants who are on a different contract.
Their unions agreed a three-year pay deal in 2018 worth more than £4bn, which sees staff receive between 6.5 per cent up to 29 per cent for the lowest paid.
Unions say April’s planned pay rise should be brought forward to recognise the role frontline staff have played in the Covid-19 pandemic.
Protesters were due to gather at St James’s Park in central London on Saturday morning before marching down Whitehall to Downing Street before a planned rally in Parliament Square.
Another 30 demonstrations have been organised in towns and cities across the country – including, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield.
Official data show nurses in the NHS earned an average of £33,540 in the year to March 2020. Support staff such as care assistants earn an average of £20,063 in the same 12 month period.
Consultants earned an average of £114,489 in the year to March although junior doctors earnings ranged from £34,288 to £58,865v depending on their role.
The coronavirus crisis has seen more than 9 million people put on furlough, with tens of thousands made redundant as a result of the UK lockdown and the impact on the economy with predictions the country will see its worst recession of modern times.
Unite national officer for health, Jackie Williams, said: “In a decade of Tory austerity, NHS staff has seen their pay cut by 20 per cent in real terms — and no amount of Thursday evening clapping and warm ministerial words can compensate for this dramatic loss in income.”
A recent survey by Unison suggested more than two-thirds of people think all NHS employees should be awarded a pay rise this year.
Claudia Webbe, Labour MP for Leicester East, said: “This crisis has shown that the people who really matter and keep our society ticking are not billionaires and the super-rich, but nurses, carers, cleaners, checkout attendants and many more essential frontline workers.”
She added: “We can no longer live in a society where health workers are underpaid, frontline workers are undervalued or our NHS is starved of funding.”
Donna Kinnair, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said ministers must listen to the strength of feeling in the workforce and bring forward pay discussions.
She said: “Telling nursing staff to wait until next year is completely unacceptable.
“While these are not our events, I will always support members playing an active role in fighting for fair pay and conditions for nursing staff.
“Our recent survey of 42,000 nursing staff showed that 36 per cent were considering leaving the profession, with most saying pay was a factor in their decision.”
The Met Police said it had a policing strategy in place to cover the protests, adding: “We are aware that a number of people may wish to demonstrate this weekend — we would always ask them to engage with us.”
Additional reporting by agencies